By Denise-Marie Balona, The Orlando Sentinel –
ORLANDO, Fla. — The driver of a bus on which Florida A&M drum major Robert Champion was killed in November stood guard while he was being hazed by fellow band members, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in Orlando by Champion’s family.
According to the lawsuit, bus driver Wendy Millette saw Champion vomiting in the parking lot of the Rosen Plaza hotel, then told him to get back on the bus — that he’d be OK. After he boarded the bus again, the lawsuit contends, he was subjected to more hazing.
The hazing took place after the Florida Classic football game in Orlando.
In the suit, Champion’s family is contending that Millette contributed to the drum major’s death by either participating in the hazing or allowing it to happen.
The charter bus company, Fabulous Coach Lines of Branford, Fla., was not immediately available for comment. But Ray Land, the company’s president, said last month that he was disappointed the Champion family is targeting his company.
He stressed that Fabulous is not responsible for the conduct of individuals riding the charter buses. He also said Millette did not see any hazing aboard the bus on which Champion collapsed.
“If she would have seen that, we definitely would have stopped it,” Land said.
According the suit, however, the driver of another Fabulous Coach Lines bus saw the bus rocking from side to side and asked Millette what was happening. Millette then told him to ignore the activity and move on, the suit alleges.
Champion, 26, died as a result of blunt force trauma from the hazing, according to a medical examiner’s report.
Attorney Christopher Chestnut announced in January that he planned to sue the bus company that transported the marching band.
The lawsuit, Chestnut had said, would give the Champion family an opportunity to discover more quickly key facts about the night Champion died. As part of the legal proceeding, the company and others will be asked to provide documents and testimony that could shed more light on what occurred.
According to the suit, Millette was frequently assigned to the infamous “Bus C,” where hazings were known to occur, and told other drivers that she was part of the Bus C “posse.”
Drivers, the suit alleges, had complained about hazing incidents before Nov. 19 incident and were told by FAMU administrators to ignore them – that “FAMU was paying for it and could do what they want.”