Crash victim’s lawsuit casts wide net

The family of a boy trapped under a sport utility vehicle last May after a driver ran into a crowd of students at Ralston Middle School in Belmont, leaving 13 injured, has filed a lawsuit against the city, the school district and the transit district.

Ian Wikle, 15, was one of three students pinned under a Honda Pilot SUV after 70-year-old Mauro Yan lost control of the vehicle and plowed into a group of children just after school recessed on May 2, 2007. The SUV struck the students and a tree at the school loading zone, where SamTrans buses pick up and drop off students.

The three students were treated for major injuries such as a lacerated kidney, a broken ankle and a fractured pelvis, authorities said. Ian Wikle suffered scalp lacerations and other injuries.

In his April 9 lawsuit, Richard Wikle, father of Ian Wikle, claims that the lack of barriers between the school parking lot and the bus loading area forced the children to crowd into an area dangerously close to moving vehicles.

The lawsuit also claims the parking lot was improperly configured for congested conditions involving students, cars and buses — a situation that officials should have realized was dangerous. San Mateo County Transit District and school officials also failed to properly supervise the children as they boarded the buses, according to the court filings.

Yan, former Ralston Middle School Vice Principal David Schrag and SamTrans bus driver Larry Glenn have also been named in the lawsuit.

Wikle’s attorney Quinton Cutlip declined to comment on the suit and calls to the Wikle home were not returned.

Belmont Vice Mayor William Dickenson said on Wednesday that he was “sickened” to hear about the lawsuit.

“What do people want to do? Do they want to barricade the sidewalks? It just blows my mind when people want to be litigious,” he said. “They fell into a bad situation and they’re looking for the deep pockets to go after. We can’t put a bubble around everyone and make sure they’re protected. It’s just a sad time.”

Belmont City Attorney Marc Zafferano said he had not yet seen the lawsuit, but that it was the only one filed against the city in relation to the incident.

Wikle is seeking the cost of past and future medical bills, the value of missed school days, legal fees and to be compensated for his son’s anxiety and disfigurement.

County lacks trauma center one year after hectic response

In the days after a 70-year-old man crashed his SUV into a crowd of Ralston Middle School students in May, confusion reigned.

The 14 people injured in the accident — 13 students and Mauro Yan, the driver — were taken to five different hospitals. Of the nine children with major trauma injuries in the accident, four were taken to Stanford, four were taken to San Francisco and one was airlifted to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley.

Parents were frustrated about which hospitals their children were sent to, said San Mateo County Health Department spokeswoman Beverly Thames.

At the time of the accident, some parents and officials asked whether San Mateo County should have its own trauma center. But that proposal is a near impossibility, County Supervisor Jerry Hill said Wednesday.

“In order for a trauma center to be really viable, there needs to be a large number of trauma cases on a regular basis,” said Hill, who is also president of the San Mateo County General Hospital Board. “We would not have enough trauma cases in the county to support that.”

Belmont Fire Chief Doug Fry said in order to solve the problem of miscommunication, emergency responders have been advised to be in much closer communication with an emergency manager about any change in plans at the time of an accident.

As it stands, county residents needing trauma treatment are taken out of county. Those south of Millbrae Avenue are taken to the Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto, while those north of Millbrae Avenue are taken to San Francisco General.

— Katie Worth

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