As family demands answers, driver cleared in 6-year-old's death

Candice Bock was watching as her 6-year-old son, Edmond, was struck and killed by a school bus a year ago. She said she still doesn't know who was driving the vehicle.

"We want some answers," Bock said. "We want to know so this never happens again."

Edmond Bock , 6, was a first grader at Atco Elementary. 6ABC

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Camden County Prosecutor's Office said the child's death was an unfortunate accident, and declined to name the driver "because he's not being charged."

The Jan. 6, 2014, accident in Atco crushed the boy's skull.

Last month, Bock and her husband, Edmond III, filed a wrongful-death suit in Superior Court in Camden naming Hillman's Bus Service and the Waterford Township School District. They would like to add the name of the driver, listed now only as Anonymous.

Responding to an Inquirer query, the Prosecutor's Office said toxicology tests revealed no illicit substances or alcohol in the driver's system and GPS data showed that the bus did not exceed the speed limit on its route. Troopers inspected the vehicle and found no issues.

"The investigation has concluded the bus driver was not acting recklessly at the time of the accident and therefore will not be charged," the office said in a statement.

That left the Bocks unswayed.

"The mere fact they're not indicting him doesn't affect our case at all," said the family's attorney, Ben Folkman. "How did the driver not know he struck this child? How did he not hear the kid yelling and his mother screaming? These are the questions the family would like answered."

According to the lawsuit and Candice Bock, this is how the morning of Edmond's death unfolded:

It was raining.

Shortly before 8:30, a few minutes late, the school bus pulled up and extended its stop arm.

The bus had stopped on the wrong side of Aqua Lane, in the Atco section of Waterford Township. Bock didn't think much about it. There had been a substitute driver a few days earlier. She figured the substitute had probably gotten disoriented.

Edmond kissed his mother goodbye. He scurried across the street, taking care to avoid the puddles as she stepped back onto the curb.

Suddenly, the bus lurched forward. She heard Edmund scream, "Hey! Hey!" Then there was silence.

The bus didn't stop. Bock ran to it and banged on the side with her fist. It kept moving.

She rushed back to her boy, who lay on the ground in the rain. She picked him up and covered him with her coat. A neighbor heard her screams and dialed 911. Emergency workers responded in minutes.

"They gave him CPR while he was in my arms," Candice Bock said. From the front window of the family's house, Edmond's 3-year-old brother, Ryan, also watched the tragedy unfold, she said.

The bus didn't come to a halt until minutes later, after a neighbor jumped into a car and pulled in front of it, blocking its path.

Edmond was pronounced dead shortly afterward at a nearby hospital.

Police questioned the substitute driver, a man with 25 years' experience.

"It's a tragedy what happened with this young man," said Bob Gold, the lawyer who is representing both the school district and Hillman's. "We don't believe Hillman's was at any way at fault, or the school district. We are convinced there was no negligence or any wrongdoing on the part of the bus driver or on behalf of the Waterford School District."

@samwoodiii 215-854-2796