Friday, December 4, 2009

Blaine County couple sues Mountain Rides

Russos allege bus driver caused 2008 injury accident

Express Staff Writer

A Mountain Rides Valley Route bus heads south on state Highway 75. A Blaine County couple has filed a lawsuit against Mountain Rides, alleging that another southbound bus caused an injury accident on the highway almost two years ago. Photo by David N. Seelig

A Blaine County couple has filed a lawsuit against Mountain Rides Transportation Authority, alleging that a bus driver caused an injury accident almost two years ago on state Highway 75.

Aliki and Chris Russo are seeking unspecified damages in excess of $10,000. They allege in the complaint that Aliki Russo suffered injuries in the accident, leading to loss of earnings, past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering and permanent disability.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Russos by Ketchum attorney Edward Simon on Nov. 24 in Blaine County 5th District Court. Also named as defendants are Mountain Rides funding partners Blaine County and the cities of Bellevue, Ketchum and Sun Valley, and Mountain Rides bus driver Larry Larsson.

The Russos claim Larsson operated a bus negligently, leading to the accident on the morning of Jan. 3, 2008, at the intersection of Highway 75 and the south leg of Broadway Run at The Meadows mobile-home park.

According to a report filed at the time by the Blaine County Sheriff's Office, the accident occurred just before 7:30 a.m. Aliki Russo, identified then as 36-year-old Aliki Georgakopoulos, was southbound in a 2008 GMC Envoy when she lost control of the vehicle on a slick roadway and was struck by a northbound 1992 Chevrolet Blazer driven by Pedro Marquez, a 38-year-old Hailey resident.

The sheriff's office reported that Marquez, Russo and two young children in her vehicle suffered "minor injuries" and were transported by ambulance to St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center. The sheriff's office also reported that a Mountain Rides bus, while not directly involved in the accident, may have contributed to the crash by pulling onto the highway in front of the Russo vehicle.

Larsson, who was driving the bus, was issued a citation for "unsafe pullout" on Jan. 11 of that year. He was found guilty by Magistrate Court Judge Jason Walker in a court trial on Feb. 12, 2008, and fined $75.

Larrson, now 70, remains employed by Mountain Rides. Court records show no other driving infractions against him in Blaine County.

The Russos claim in their lawsuit that Aliki Russo sustained injuries to her back and neck, suffered a laceration of her spleen and received numerous cuts and bruises. The suit claims that the injuries have required hospital, doctor, therapist and attendant care, medication and "medical and therapeutic devices."

Mountain Rides Executive Director Jason Miller declined to discuss the lawsuit, saying the matter is being handled by the organization's insurance carrier.

Miller said operation of Mountain Rides buses has changed in the Broadway Run area since the time of the accident. Previously, southbound Valley Route buses turned south onto Broadway Run at the highway traffic light near the hospital and turned back onto the highway by making a left turn from the southern leg of Broadway Run.

'We no longer make that turn during peak traffic hours, and only make it now on request after 6:30 p.m.," Miller said. "Safety is one issue and the buses would just get hung up there and get behind schedule."

Terry Smith:

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