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Feds Probe Fleet Driver in N.C. Bus Crash Caused While Fumbling for Cell Phone

January 19, 2004

The driver who told police he was fumbling for his cell phone when his truck hit a school bus, killing a 5-year-old girl, allegedly has a record of speeding and other traffic violations and was convicted of dragging a woman beside a car, the Associated Press reported on January 14. Gary Kendall Garnett was at the wheel of an empty chicken-hauling truck that slammed into a stopped school bus, killing a girl who was boarding the bus and injuring more than a dozen other students and the girl's mother. The Robeson County district attorney is expected to decide this week what charges to file. Garnett told state troopers he was distracted because he was trying to locate his cell phone, which he dropped on the floorboard. The impact propelled the bus more than 400 feet into the yards of houses along a two-lane highway near Maxton, about 35 miles southwest of Fayetteville. Robeson County school officials said the bus driver probably saved lives because she steered the careening bus away from trees and homes. The truck was owned by Mountaire Farms Inc., a poultry processing company with operations in Delaware, North Carolina, and Arkansas.
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