Families Of Patients Who Died Fleeing Hurricane Rita Settle Lawsuit

Tuesday, September 25th 2007, 7:19 am
By: News On 6

HOUSTON (AP) _ The families of all 23 nursing home patients who died in a bus explosion as they fled Hurricane Rita have settled their lawsuits against the nursing home that evacuated them, lawyers said.

Lawyers for the families and for Sunrise Senior Living Services Inc., of McLean, Va., said terms of the settlement were confidential.

Brighton Gardens, a Houston-area assisted living community owned by Sunrise, bussed residents north as Hurricane Rita approached the Texas coast two years ago. A rear wheel of the bus caught fire in the early morning of Sept. 23, 2005, on a freeway near Dallas. Within minutes the vehicle was engulfed in flames and smoke.

Those who died in the fire were too frail to escape the bus on their own. Fourteen passengers survived.

``I would say our differences have been amicably resolved, and both sides are happy to put those issues behind them,'' said attorney Randy Sorrels, who represents some of the victims' families.

Spokesman Jamison Gosselin said Sunrise Senior Living had settled all claims against it. ``This has been a heart-wrenching time for many people, and we certainly share their sadness,'' he said.

A federal investigation found the bus fire started when poorly lubricated wheel bearings overheated in the right rear well, igniting a tire. The fire spread to oxygen canisters in the bus's cabin, causing them to explode.

Victims and relatives of victims last year reached an $11 million settlement with the bus company, Global Limo Inc., and BusBank, the travel broker that hired it.