By Marek Mazurek
South Bend Tribune
ROCHESTER — Recently obtained records reveal that Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation paid nearly $3.5 million in a settlement to the families of the victims in a 2018 crash that killed three children and seriously injured another.
The settlement with the school corp. was signed in June 2019, less than seven months after Alyssa Shepherd hit and killed 9-year-old Alivia Stahl and the girl’s 6-year-old twin half brothers, Xzavier and Mason Ingle, at a Fulton County bus stop.
The crash also severely injured 11-year-old Maverik Lowe, who is unrelated to the three siblings.
According to a copy of the settlement obtained by the Tribune, the Tippecanoe Valley district paid $2.575 million to the parents of the three children who died in the crash, with approximately $1.24 million going to an estate created in the children’s names, $206,250 to the father of Alivia Stahl and a little over $1.13 million to the mother of the children, Brittany Ingle, and her husband Shane Ingle.
In addition, the district paid $900,000 to the family of Maverik Lowe.
Representatives from the Tippecanoe Valley School Corp. provided a copy of the settlement after the Tribune submitted a records request but did not respond to multiple messages seeking comment on the agreement.
Shane Ingle declined to comment Tuesday, citing a confidentiality clause in the settlement. Attorneys who represented the Ingles and Lowes in the proceedings did not return phone calls from the Tribune.
The settlement was agreed to around nine months before an investigation into the crash by the National Safety Transportation Board concluded the school district’s “inadequate safety assessment of school bus routes” was a contributing cause in the crash.
The report published by the NTSB — a federal agency that investigates major transportation crashes – listed Shepherd’s failure to stop for the school bus on the early morning of Oct. 30, 2018 as the primary cause of the crash, even though the bus had clearly visible warning lights and a stop arm, in addition to a roadway sign indicating an upcoming bus stop.
However, the report also found the corporation had inadequate safety procedures for bus stops. The bus stop where the crash occurred on Indiana 25 in Fulton County required children to walk across a 55-mph speed limit road to board the bus.
The school district also failed to “establish a clear policy” for bus drivers to determine when it was safe to signal students to cross a road, the report said.
As a result of its investigation, the NTSB recommended that the school district keep track of parent, student and bus driver complaints about the safety of routes and to train drivers and students on safe crossings.
In the days after the crash, the school district moved the stop on Indiana 25 into a nearby mobile home park and established a transportation safety review committee. The settlement stipulates the district does not admit liability regarding the crash.
New school bus safety laws were also adopted in 2019 as a result of the Rochester crash.
The report also found that Shepherd was driving a pickup truck 41 mph when she struck the children. Shepherd has said she didn’t see the bus or the children until it was too late.
Shepherd was sentenced in December 2019 to four years in prison, with three years of house arrest followed by three years on probation.
Due to Indiana’s jail time credits and Shepherd completing a Bible study course while in prison, she could be released as early as Dec. 20 of this year.
Fulton County Prosecutor Michael Marrs and family members of the victims have opposed Shepherd’s early release into a community transition program. Judge Greg Heller could rule on Shepherd’s release by the end of the month.
Lowe’s family is also waiting to hear what Heller’s ruling on restitution will be. The family is hoping to receive $36,556 in restitution payments from Shepherd to pay for lost wages, lodging expenses and a handicap-accessible car, though Shepherd’s attorney contends state law does not allow restitution to be paid for the items Lowe’s family is requesting.
This article was made available through Hoosier State Press Association.