Auxvasse bus driver receives probation after manslaughter conviction

Willie Leonberger, left, chats with relatives after he received five years of probation Wednesday from a four-year prison sentence for second-degree involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of a North Callaway School District student, Hunter Pitt. Leonberger was driving a school bus that ran over and killed the youngster. Leonberger pleaded guilty to the charge.

Willie Leonberger, left, chats with relatives after he received five years of probation Wednesday from a four-year prison sentence for second-degree involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of a North Callaway School District student, Hunter Pitt. Leonberger was driving a school bus that ran over and killed the youngster. Leonberger pleaded guilty to the charge. Photo by Don Norfleet.

Willie R. Leonberger, 78, Auxvasse, a former North Callaway School District bus driver, Wednesday received five years of probation after he was sentenced to four years in prison.

With about 30 family and friends supporting him in the courtroom, Leonberger was convicted in Callaway County Circuit Court on a felony charge of second-degree involuntary manslaughter.

Leonberger was driving a school bus that struck and killed 6-year-old Hunter Pitt on Jan. 18, 2011.

The accident occurred at 3:50 p.m. on Callaway County Road 182 near the North Outer Road of I-70. Pitt and another student had just got off the bus at 9803 County Road 182.

Missouri State Highway Patrolman Justin W. Turner investigated the accident. In a probable cause for arrest statement, Turner reported Pitt was the second student to get off at the stop.

Turner said Leonberger failed to follow bus driver protocol when he failed to locate Pitt after he got off the bus. Turner said Leonberger should have done this before moving the bus forward.

Turner said Pitt was hit first by the right front corner of the bus and then was struck by a rear wheel of the bus.

Turner said Leonberger was negligent when he failed to make certain that Pitt had cleared the path of the bus before moving the bus forward.

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