Family of boy who died in school bus fall says he was happy

EDINBURG — The attorney for the family of a Harlingen teenager killed a year ago when he fell from a moving school bus called the official ruling of his death as suicide a “sham.”

“Our son was happy, you didn’t even call us or talk to us to get this information,” attorney Terry Gorman said the family told investigators.

Thirteen-year-old Gabriel Miranda was on a school field trip with his Vernon Middle School classmates on Nov. 14, 2016, when somehow the rear emergency door of a Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District bus opened and he fell to his death on I-2/Expressway 83 in Hidalgo County.

Authorities in Edinburg and the county concluded the teenager committed suicide by throwing himself out of the back of the bus.

The Miranda family has filed a $100 million wrongful-death suit against HCISD, its superintendent, two teachers and the driver of the bus.

The suit also includes the Edinburg Police Department and its chief, and the Hidalgo County judge and other county officials. Also listed are the Texas Education Agency and its director.

The Harlingen school district said in a statement that it is “very sympathetic to the family’s loss,” but it does not believe the district has any responsibility “for this misfortune.”

Other defendants have dismissed the allegations, calling the lawsuit frivolous.

“Despite comments that have already made it to the press, this lawsuit is not frivolous,” said Gorman, an El Paso native who now lives in Austin. “The allegations in the lawsuit are founded, they are not trivial, and they are not made up.”

Following social media postings critical of the amount of money the lawsuit seeks, and of the family, Gorman told reporters at a news conference outside the county courthouse yesterday morning that the $100 million number on the family’s lawsuit was selected by him without consulting the Miranda family.

“I know that there is a big number on this lawsuit,” he said. “I just want everybody to know I put the numbers in the lawsuit … I didn’t discuss it with the family, nor have I talked to them about that.

“The big number is a number I came up with that was really pretty easy,” he continued. “I asked myself, if I lost my son, if I lost my daughter, if I lost my grandson, and people were perhaps lying about it, what would I think is enough?

“The honest answer of course is there isn’t enough because that’s priceless,” he said. “This is not about money, it’s not about a frivolous lawsuit as I’ve already been judged this morning by people in the county.”

One of the key parts of the lawsuit appears to be the malfunctioning of a newly installed video camera on bus No. 118. The plaintiff attorneys said a “gap” in the recording shows a blank screen that resumed functioning properly only after the point Gabriel Miranda fell from the back of the bus.

Gorman said the audio of the recording is now in the possession of a forensic audio expert who is seeking to enhance the recording for possible entry as evidence in the case. He said he didn’t have a timetable on when the audio recording would be available.