• December 20, 2021

Abigail Ragston Killed in School Bus Accident on FM 1887 in Waller County, TX

Waller County, TX -- December 17, 2021, 59-year-old Abigail Ragston was killed when a school bus overturned and crashed in the outskirts of Waller County.

Authorities say the incident happened around noon on FM 1887 near Holik Road. Preliminary investigation suggests only that the Hempstead ISD bus was traveling on the roadway when the driver lost control for unknown reasons. The bus left the road and the driver overcorrected, causing the vehicle to veer back and forth across the roadway several times as the driver tried to regain control. Some distance further down the road the bus entered a side-skid and spun around, then overturned and rolled through a barbed wire fence. It came to rest upright in the field beyond the fence.

Ragston, an educational aide aboard the bus, was ejected during the rollover and suffered fatal injuries. Three of the four students aboard the bus were transported to area hospitals. The bus driver reportedly received minor injuries.

The accident remains under investigation. No further information is currently available.

Commentary on Abigail Ragston Accident on FM 1887 in Waller County

UPDATE (January 25, 2022): Later reports about this accident say police suspect the bus driver of inattention and speeding. It's not clear if they found evidence to that effect, but it may be possible to verify those suspicions by look at the bus speedometer in case it froze during the crash and/or its Electronic Control Module (ECM) data. As for the driver's distraction, that might be harder to verify unless her cell phone records indicate texts or data usage from that time. Either way it seems there may be additional digging to do.

Some people may feel that if police point a finger at the bus driver that means the local school district is on the hook for making amends to the victim's family. Unfortunately that isn't necessarily true, as government entities are just as stubborn as trucking companies when it comes to admitting fault. Seeking redress against an agency at any level of government requires jumping through numerous hoops that may not be obvious to victims and their families. Many of those hoops actually have specific time frames in which they must be jumped or the whole case may be dismissed with prejudice before it can truly begin.

None of this may be necessary to point out, as the victim's loved ones may feel no need to make a claim after their terrible loss. It's not my place to speak for them. As always, I write this blog primarily to make people aware that no matter how straightforward an accident's facts may seem, there are usually complications or wrinkles that must be addressed if victims and families are to receive the answers and help they deserve.

Abigail Ragston Killed in School Bus Accident on FM 1887 in Waller County, TX

ORIGINAL: It's deeply saddening to learn this accident proved fatal for someone who was by all accounts a dedicated worker of 20 or more years who loved her job. While I'm relieved to learn the young students aboard the bus escaped with their lives, it's a terrible shame that not everyone was so fortunate.

Obviously investigators must work to get to the bottom of what happened near Holik Road. Some people may read the early news reports that say the bus driver lost control and wind up to throw the book at that person, assuming they did something wrong at the wheel. It doesn't take long after most single-vehicle accidents for accusations of speeding or texting to start flying, but that's a highly unfair assumption to make while police are still trying to assemble the basic facts. For all anyone knows the bus had mechanical problems or blew a tire, or the driver might have suffered some kind of medical episode and lost control. Those scenarios might raise some troubling questions about the school district's vehicle maintenance and driver vetting practices, but they too are only possibilities to investigate more closely.

My point here is that it's always important to be careful and thorough when looking into these matters. Some may be tempted to just blame a reckless driver but no one can be certain that's what happened here. Without looking carefully at all possible variables something unusual but important may slip through the cracks.

I don't mean to turn a tragic loss into a lesson about careful investigation. I only know that I have seen many accidents in which the wrong thing was blamed because investigators didn't have the time, equipment, or patience to thoroughly examine all the possibilities or extenuating circumstances. Few incidents are as clear as they may initially seem.

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