DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — A jury has awarded $18 million to the estate of a Chapel Hill man killed in a charter bus crash almost two years ago.
WRAL in Raleigh reports the wrongful death lawsuit sought $52 million, but lawyers for Horizon Coach Lines told the jury in closing arguments on Thursday that they shouldn’t have to pay more than $1 million.
The lawsuit contended that driver Larry Brocks lost control of the bus while reaching for water.
The bus was on its way to Hampton University (HU) on April 5, 2013, when it overturned. Doval Emmanuel Watson, a 58-year-old Hampton alumnus, died from injuries suffered in the wreck.
Watson’s and his wife, Theresa Watson, were chaperons on the trip. She suffered serious injuries in the crash.
“You would think with the lawsuit that we’d just be really overjoyed, but it’s just an empty void,” Theresa Watson said. “You can’t really be happy for that because he’s not here. Money never replaces a life.”
For the first time, the wife of a man killed in a charter bus crash is speaking about what happened. They were just trying to expose high school students to college life at their Alma Mater when the tragedy happened. The bus overturned in Southampton County on its way to HU’s Open House Day.
This week, hundreds of high school students will attend the 37th Annual High School Day at HU. It’s a special day that many who attend never forget. But for the Watson family and the students who traveled with them from North Carolina, it’s a nightmare.
Before Doval Watson could give Raleigh area students a tour of his Alma Mater, the driver of the Horizon Coach Lines bus they were riding in lost control. The bus ran off the side of the road, and Doval and Theresa were ejected from the bus. He died at the scene.
“It’s just an empty void,” Theresa Watson said.
The students worked to save Theresa before first responders arrived. Then they were all transported to local hospitals, along with the driver of the bus, Larry Brocks. He was later charged with reckless driving.
Watson was a former president of the Durham-Chapel Hill chapter of the Hampton University Alumni Association. Four of his six children attended HU, too. His family said the annual trip to bring students who might follow in their footsteps was something he loved.
The woman he loved remembered his last words to her on their last trip. She told reporters he asked, “Do you have a seatbelt?” And when she said no, he traded seats with her.
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