UPDATE: Athens ISD bus crash driver has first pretrial hearing set for February 5

Local News

UPDATE (9:00 A.M.) – Athens ISD bus driver John Stevens was present for a brief hearing Wednesday morning where prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed that the discovery process for the case was complete and that pre-trial hearings could be scheduled.

As they were walking out of the courthouse, his head lawyer Brian Schmidt told Stevens to “stay strong.”

The first pretrial hearing for the case has been set for February 5 at 1 p.m. in the 392nd District Court in Athens.

Schmidt said in an interview after the hearing that they are going through lots of information and documents pertaining to the case. They come from several sources including police reports, Union Pacific, and Athens ISD.

Stevens is charged with criminally negligent homicide and injury to a child for the bus crash that killed one student and severely injured another.

He faces up to 22 years in prison for the accident.


ATHENS, Texas (KETK) – The Athens ISD bus driver from January’s deadly crash that killed one young student is back in court on Wednesday for another status hearing.

John Stevens, 79, is charged with criminally negligent homicide and injury to a child after the bus he was driving collided with a Union Pacific train in Athens back on January 25.

The collision killed 13-year-old Christopher Bonilla after he was ejected from the bus and severely injured 9-year-old Joselyne Torres. They were less than half a mile from their stop. Stevens was also injured in the collision.

There are no flashing lights or automatic gates at the crossing and it is known for having trees obstructing the vision of motorists. However, there are gates and flashing lights at the two adjacent intersections next to the collision site.

Stevens was indicted for the crash back in June after a lengthy investigation. He pleaded not guilty to all charges at his first hearing just days later.

Many in the community at the time of the crash came to Stevens’ defense, saying he was a victim as well. If convicted, he could face up to 22 years in prison.

The family members of the children on the bus have also filed a civil lawsuit against Stevens, Athens ISD, Union Pacific, as well as the conductor and engineer of the train involved.

The suit claims that Stevens “failed to stop for a train, failed to keep a proper lookout, and suffered from driver inattention.” They are seeking more than $1 million in damages and will request a jury trial.

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