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Arlana Haynes' parents trying to cope one year after deadly school bus accident

A Houston County school bus crash killed Haynes in January of 2018

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — It's been a year, but for Christopher Haynes, the pain doesn't fade.

"I honestly can't even put it into words," he said. "This has been the probably the hardest year of my life."

On January 29th, 2018, his 6-year-old Arlana was on her way home from Parkwood Elementary when her school bus crashed. She was ejected and badly hurt.

First responders took her to Medical Center Navicent Health, where Christopher's lawyer Teddy Reese said in an attempt to save her life, doctors amputated Arlana's body up to her navel area.

"To see her laying on that table like she was, it was something that I honestly can never forget," said Christopher.

A day after the crash, though, her injuries proved too severe.

"Having your daughter die in your hands is something that I just honestly can't ever get over," he said.

Warner Robins police arrested the bus driver, Shalita Jackson Harris, nearly a month after the crash. She was charged with vehicular homicide and reckless driving.

In May, a Houston County grand jury indicted her on four charges: homicide by vehicle in the first degree, reckless driving, too fast for conditions, and failure to maintain lane.

Her case continues to work its way through the court system.

Court documents allege she took a turn too fast on Forest Park Drive, which led to the crash.

"When you have other people's children in your hands, you just don't take those kinds of chances," said Christopher.

At the time of the crash, the Houston County Board of Education released a statement saying their "thoughts and prayers" were with Arlana's family and that the "accident (was) still under investigation."

However, despite repeated requests, they never allowed a reporter to interview board leadership about what happened and what their investigation revealed.

Arlana's parents filed a civil suit against the school board for damages, and David Dozier, the attorney who represents Arlana's mother Angelica Rose, said the two parties have now reached a tentative settlement pending some final legal maneuvering.

He wouldn't release the amount of the settlement but said although the suit had been tentatively resolved, not all of the parents' concerns had been fully addressed.

"We really haven't resolved a lot of the issues that I think the family was...interested in which was what (the Houston County Board of Education intends) to do to prevent harm like this in the future," said Dozier.

And a year later, when 13WMAZ asked them yet again for answers about the crash, the school board's response was largely the same. District spokesperson Beth McLaughlin sent a written statement saying "under advice of legal counsel, we are not discussing anything pertaining to this bus accident due to litigation."

"If anything, I would want myself a year later to basically sit down with the Board of Education to see what kind of measures they have put in place to make sure this doesn't happen again to anyone else's child," said Christopher Haynes.

So far though, he says that conversation hasn't happened.

Still, through it all, he's tried to keep his faith.

"God has a plan and there has to be some reason why she was taken from us," he said.

But a year later, the answer to that question is still the hardest one to find.

Shalita Jackson Harris declined to comment for this story.

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