ASHEVILLE — A lawsuit claims negligence on the part of the Buncombe County Board of Education and Roberson High football coach Jim Beatty contributed to the death of a student who was run over by ATV at the school.
An administrator for the estate of Donald “Donnie” Boyer Crotty filed the complaint in Buncombe County Superior Court seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages.
Crotty, a 15-year-old rising junior, suffered a severe head injury when he was struck by an ATV driven by another student during a youth football practice at Roberson on July 11, 2011. He died 10 days later.
The wrongful death lawsuit names the school board, Beatty and the student who was driving the SUV.
A response to the complaint filed by the defendants denies the allegations and says the driver “exercised reasonable care.”
Authorities said Crotty was walking along a path with a group when the ATV approached from the opposition direction. As Crotty and the others moved out of the way, the vehicle clipped one of his legs and spun him awkwardly, then ran over him.
Investigators determined the driver was not at fault and no horseplay was involved. Sheriff Van Duncan called the accident “just a freak thing.”
But the lawsuit claims the ATV driver “traveled at an unsafe and excessive rate of speed as several other football players, including the decedent, were also walking on the field.”
The driver “operated the vehicle in a careless, negligent and reckless manner and without due regard for Donald Boyer Crotty and the other players.”
Beatty “had a duty to assure the safety of the T.C. Roberson students” under his supervision, failed to “designate a safe, reasonable speed” for operating the ATV and failed to limit operation of the vehicle to adults, according to the lawsuit.
It states no one at the school provided any training or guidance to students on the safe operation of the vehicle.
But the answer to the lawsuit states the ATV driver “exercised reasonable care when driving the John Deere motorized vehicle but was unsuccessful in avoiding the accident which is the subject of this action.”
Crotty, “through his own negligence, was in a position of actual peril from which he could have extricated himself if he were more attentive,” the answer states.
Less than a month after Crotty died, school board members approved a policy that prohibits students from driving school system vehicles unless it is part of the curriculum.
Superintendent Tony Baldwin said the policy change was “an attempt to reduce the probability of a similar incident occurring in the future.”
The measure prohibits students from driving vehicles owned by the school system “unless the student’s operation of the vehicle/motorized equipment is identified within a course of curriculum approved by the state.” Driver education and vehicles and equipment used as part of the agriculture curriculum are exempt from the policy.