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Man indicted in traffic death of child near school bus

February 22, 2019

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi man has been indicted in the death of a boy who was struck while crossing a two-lane highway to board a school bus.

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports that a grand jury indicted 22-year-old Hunter Newman of Marietta on a charge of culpable negligence manslaughter.

Newman was arrested and charged with aggravated assault Oct. 31, the day of the wreck. The charge was upgraded after 9-year-old Dalen Thomas died.

A grand jury heard evidence against Newman in January and issued an indictment this week. Newman remains free on bond and is set to appear in court to respond to the indictment in early March.

Authorities say Newman failed to stop for a school bus and struck Dalen as the child was crossing Mississippi Highway 370 to board the bus near Baldwyn.

Dalen was taken by ambulance to North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo and was later airlifted to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where he died from injuries sustained in the crash.

Newman’s attorney, Tony Farese, said the crash was a tragic accident.

“Culpable negligence is when the negligence is so bad that we attach criminal charges,” Farese said. “He was not speeding. He was not using drugs. Tragic accidents do happen in life.”

During a preliminary hearing in November in Lee County Justice Court, Mississippi Highway Patrol trooper Brad Hamblin testified that witnesses described the lighting as “dusky” at the time the wreck happened about a half-hour before sunrise on a flat, straight stretch of highway.

Newman remained on the scene and talked to troopers. He said he saw flashing lights but thought it was a tractor. When he finally realized it was a bus, it was too late to stop.

The two motorists behind Newman’s westbound truck said they were able to tell it was a school bus a lot farther away. The man right behind Newman said he saw the strobe light on the roof of the school bus about a half-mile (1 kilometer) away. That witness said he never saw Newman’s brake lights.

A second driver, even further behind Newman, said she saw the yellow flashing lights of the school bus “way before she got there” and started slowing down, Hamblin said.

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