Parents say death might have been prevented if bus driver had taken appropriate steps
NEW ORLEANS, La. (WDSU) — A New Orleans high school student died last month after he had a seizure while on a school bus, according to this family.
His death might have been prevented, his parents say, if the bus driver had taken the appropriate steps.
Kahi Augustin, 15, was an honor roll student at New Harmony High School who aspired to become a professional illustrator.
Photos courtesy of WDSU
“He loved drawing,” said his father, Cori Augustin, pointing out Kahi’s artwork in his bedroom. On his son’s bed lay the same shorts and T-shirt he changed into every day after school, Augustin said. Drawing materials sat atop the other twin bed in the room. Kahi’s passion for art came from his father, who said his son was his own worst critic.
“He would say something wasn’t any good, but it was good. I would tell him,” Cori Augustin said.
Kahi’s dreams were dashed on the morning of Jan. 31 after he and his brother, Kyren Augustin, boarded a school bus for the trip from their home in eastern New Orleans. The brothers separated, with Kahi sitting near the front and Kyren a few rows back.
Video from on board the bus, which the Augustin family’s lawyer obtained, shows that at 6:20 a.m. Kahi slumped over to his left and fell. His head landed awkwardly on the seat across the aisle. His brother can’t be seen in the video at the time.
The time stamp on the video shows seven minutes passed before another passenger boarded and found Kahi lying across the aisle. Kyren is seen trying to rouse his brother. The bus driver pulls over on Franklin Avenue near Gladiolus Street and is seen making a phone call. According to a lawsuit the Augustin family has filed, the driver contacted his dispatcher at Apple Bus Company.
George Vourvoulias, the family’s lawyer, said the driver and dispatcher didn’t follow the protocol for responding to Kahi’s seizure as outlined in a transportation emergency plan the school fashioned with the Augustin family’s approval. The plan includes a “do this” list if Kahi is observed having any “seizure activity.” Its instructions specify to “keep student safe … and place something soft under head.”
“CPR if indicated” is fourth on the list of six items, but the bus driver does not have physical contact with the teen at any point in the video provided to WDSU. The video ends with Kahi being taken out of the bus through its rear emergency exit.
New Orleans EMS confirmed in an email this week that Kahi was alive but in critical condition when he arrived at Children’s Hospital. The Augustins said they were told their son was brain-dead soon after his arrival, according to the lawsuit.
Apple Bus Company did not respond to questions about the incident, saying in a statement that “evidence will show that its employees acted appropriately.”
WDSU has obtained an email that Apple Bus sent to New Harmony High School when it provided the video from the bus. It includes a request for school leaders to sign a confidentiality agreement, which would allow the Augustins to view the video but not obtain a copy. Michael Higgins, the school’s attorney, said New Harmony did not sign the agreement.
School founder Sunny Dawn Summers said in a statement that Kahi’s presence “brought so much joy.”
“His memory will live on through story-telling about his antics, photos of his incredible smile, and his unique art. He will forever be a part of us,” Summers said.
The Augustins said they want to see city laws updated to require seat belts and cameras in all school buses. His parents said they see a chance for Kahi’s death to lead to meaningful change.
“If he could help somebody else by his story, then that is what we want,” Cori Augustin said.