Fresno families hire lawyer to investigate car crash

The Fresno BeeApril 8, 2014 

Rescue personnel tend to one of the schoolchildren involved in a two-vehicle crash in southwest Fresno on Friday, March 14, 2014.

CRAIG KOHLRUSS — Fresno Bee Staff Photo Buy Photo

A lawyer representing six of the nine children injured in a March 14 crash in southwest Fresno said Tuesday that the school-sanctioned vehicle the children were in had more students than seat belts.

The crash happened shortly after 1 p.m. on California Avenue at Fruit Avenue as the children from Anchor Academy Charter School were being driven home in a Chevrolet Suburban. Police said at the time that the driver of a black Lexus blasted through a stop sign and collided with an SUV carrying the children.

Fresno lawyer Richard Watters, of Miles, Sears & Eanni, said the school's insurance carrier told him the school contracted with a transportation company to drive the children home. But Watters said the company does not exist and the private vehicle being used was overloaded. He said that two of the children were sharing a seat belt and two others did not have seat belts.

"Clearly, they had more people in the Suburban than there were seat belts and shoulder harnesses," Watters said.

Officials with Anchor Academy could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The accident sent the children to several area hospitals for treatment. Among the most seriously injured was 13-year-old Evan Marez, who was thrown from the vehicle and suffered several injuries, including traumatic brain injury, a broken femur and facial fractures. Watters said he was in a coma for several days.

Marez's four other siblings, ranging in age from 8 to 12 years old, were also injured.

Bernadette Marez, mother of the injured children, said the crash has left physical and emotional scars on her children.

"This has changed our whole lives," she said.

Daisy Hernandez, legal guardian for 12-year-old Davina Hernandez, one of the injured children, said the seventh grader is recovering from a skin graft, broken collar bone and bruising.

"Right now, she is still emotionally traumatized," Hernandez said.

Watters said he is exploring all financial relief options for the families.

"We are asked to represent a lot of people and in this case we are asked to represent minors with severe injuries," he said. "I would not be performing my job if we did not scrutinize what happened here."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6327, or @FresnoBeeBob on Twitter.

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