Driver charged with homicide in bus stop fatal crash

Photo courtesy: Stahl Funeral Home
Photo courtesy: Stahl Funeral Home(WSAW)
Published: Nov. 10, 2020 at 8:36 AM CST
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WAUTOMA, Wis. (WSAW) - The 76-year-old man accused of hitting two children with his truck when they were boarding a school bus, killing one, has been charged.

Carl Mullenix is free on a $10,000 signature bond. He’s charged with homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle and reckless driving.

The crash happened around 7:15 a.m. on Feb. 10 on Highway 73 near Plainfield in the town of Oasis. Investigators said Mullenix was driving on the shoulder of the road when the pedestrians were struck.

Maryana Kranz, 6, died at the scene. Her 4-year-old sister was also injured.

Court documents state a witness who was stopped behind the school bus in his car saw Mullenix’s truck approaching at a high rate of speed from behind. The witness said he did believe the truck was going to stop, so he pulled his own car into the northbound lane of traffic. The bus was in the southbound lane.

The witness said Mullenix passed the witness before passing the school bus on the right and eventually coming to a stop in front of the bus.

A Waushara County detective walked the scene and saw tire tracks on the shoulder on the right side of the bus. The detective said that was consistent with the witness’s account of what happened.

The detective saw a child’s mittens, snow boots, and backpack in front of the bus. Maryana Kranz was covered in a blanket on the road.

Investigators said Mullenix stated he was driving to an auto repair shop in Wautoma that morning. He stated he saw the bus stopped, hit his brakes, and steered to the passenger side of the bus.

Mullenix said he did not see the witness’s vehicle that was stopped behind the bus.

The school bus driver told investigators that he had stopped to pick up three children at a residence on State Highway 73. The bus driver said he activated his school bus warning lights, the flashing red lights, and the stop arm.

The driver said he saw a silver car stopped at a safe distance behind the bus. This was the witness’s vehicle.

The bus driver said he saw the Kranz children cross the street and the “truck came out of nowhere and struck the children,” according to the complaint.

The victim’s grandmother stated that southbound traffic was stopped behind the bus and she and her grandchildren proceeded to cross the highway to the bus. The grandmother said when they reached the arm of the bus, she let one of the girls go to get on the bus. She was holding Maryana’s hand, and Maryana’s sister was holding on to Maryana’s hand. That’s when Mullenix’s truck hit Maryana. The grandmother said Maryana “flew and landed on the shoulder.” The other little girl flew back toward the bus.

Mullenix was previously issued citations for Improper Passing of Stopped Bus, Fail/Stop for Unloading School Bus, Inattentive Driving, and Unsafe Passing on Right. The investigation was then sent to the district attorney’s office for official charges.

Maryanna’s mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Mullenix and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. WBAY-TV reports the suit states that Shannon Kranz arrived at the scene within minutes and “personally witnessed the severe injuries and ultimate death inflicted to her daughter due to the negligence of Carl Mullenix.” It states Shannon has “sustained severe emotional distress.” Kranz is also looking for damages related to medical and burial expenses.

A settlement offer was made in August, according to online court records. No details were released regarding the settlement. A hearing in the wrongful death suit is scheduled for Jan. 19.

Mullenix is scheduled to return to court Feb. 2 for a clerical court appearance in his felony case.

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