9-year-old girl remembered as family pushes for improved bus safety laws in Massachusetts

Hampshire County

(WWLP) – It’s been five years since 9-year-old Summer Steele was killed in a tragic bus accident in Plainfield. Since then, her parents have been taking action to change bus safety in the state.

The Steele family is hoping to improve the laws around bus safety in the state five years after tragedy struck their family in Plainfield.

“It’s been a long five years,” says Summer’s mother, Amanda Gaffigan-Steele. “It took a long time to try to get over the grief and the shock of what has happened.”

It was October 28th, 2016, when Summer was run over after getting caught in her school bus door. She was a third-grader at Sanderson Academy in Ashfield. Summer’s parents say this horrible tragedy was preventable and with help from lawmakers, Summer’s family has been trying to pass a law to improve school bus safety here in the state called Summer’s Law.

“If you can have sensors on a car then why not on a bus? why not?” said Amanda.

22News spoke with Steele’s family lawyer, Eric Lucentini, about what Summer’s Law would change current bus safety laws.

“Summer’s Law focuses part one on sensors on doors, it also contains a part two,” said Lucentini. “We would like to see a shift also in the more larger component of their annual training, to be devoted to the pickup and drop-off protocol. There is an area around school buses known as the danger zone. The area where most accidents happen and then tend to happen in pick up and drop off.”

The family’s lawyer adds they hope to create a school bus safety commission, so other bills for bus safety, like seat belts on buses, can be addressed. Summer’s Law is still pending at the statehouse, but Summer’s parents are still making big efforts back here in western Massachusetts to ensure all kids are safe on the roads, including improving roads signs at Buckland-Shelburne Elementary.

“I did make a promise to Summer that I won’t stop until this is fixed,” said Summer’s father Brent Steele. “Anything that we can do to help, I think as a parent when you lose a child you try to make anything happen so that it doesn’t happen again to someone else.”

As the anniversary of this tragic incident approaches, Summer’s family remembers their daughter who loved hearts, the color purple, and collecting sea glass. Their community also continues to give tremendous support as the memory of a beloved daughter lives on.

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