The family of a teenager severely injured in an Anaheim Hills school bus crash last year spoke out for the first time Wednesday as the driver pleaded not guilty in court.
Regina Singh is proud and protective, but she broke down in tears when she talked about riding with her daughter in an ambulance not knowing how badly she'd been injured on April 24, 2014.
"It's been nine months now, and we still have friends that are praying for her and blessing her every single day," Singh said.
Eleven students were hurt, and of those, four students suffered major injuries including fractured bones, intracranial hemorrhaging, a shattered spine, and a toe amputation.
Singh's daughter was a Girl Scout about to complete eighth grade and had just had her braces removed.
Singh remembers someone handing her a backpack, and remembers the chaos of kids screaming. She found out her daughter was stuck near the emergency exit of the bus, that she was wearing a seat belt.
The teenager was home-schooled for two months, but she made it to her promotion ceremony. Her toe had been amputated and she was recovering from spinal injuries.
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"I'm not angry at anybody," Singh said. "We're just trying to stay positive and move forward."
In moving forward she asked NBC4 not to show her daughter's face. She doesn't want the 14-year old to be defined forever as a bus crash victim.
Meanwhile, the driver of the bus is facing charges in the crash.
Gerald Douglas Rupple, 25, pleaded not guilty in court Wednesday to perjury, child abuse and child endangerment.
In a CHP report, Rupple, dubbed by children as "Mr. Jerry," allegedly told investigators he blacked out after not feeling well. "The heat probably got to me," he said, according to the report.
At the time of the crash, Rupple is accused of having a medical condition that causes dizziness, seizures, and blackouts. He allegedly did not disclose his medical history to the school district knowing that it would negatively affect his employment, prosecutors said.
"I don't think he intended harm on these kids. I think he made a terrible mistake because he desperately wanted a job," Singh's attorney Katherine Harvey-Lee said.
The Orange Unified School District bus crashed while going about 50 mph, causing the school bus to veer off the road and crash into several trees. Prosecutors say Rupple passed out.
Attorneys say the Orange Unified School District should be held responsible.
"They hired somebody who was covering up a medical condition," Harvey-Lee said. "They were responsible for putting him behind the wheel."
The district did not respond to request for comment by NBC4 but has said they consider Rupple a former employee.