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‘How does this happen?’: Families of children aboard hijacked S.C. school bus look for accountability

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 12:28 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF/WCSC/WIS) – Attorneys for and family members of the victims in last week’s school bus hijacking in Richland County are looking for accountability.

Family members of two of the victims will joined Columbia-based attorneys Bakari Sellers and Jessica Fickling held a news conference Thursday morning to call on the authorities at Fort Jackson and Richland County School District Two to answer tough questions about the dramatic failures which resulted in a 23-year-old Fort Jackson trainee taking 19 children hostage while they were on their way to school, a press release stated.

RELATED: Ft. Jackson trainee accused of hijacking school bus ‘wanted to get home,’ commander says

Families of children aboard hijacked S.C. school bus to hold press conference

LIVE: Attorneys for and family members of the victims in last week’s school bus hijacking in Richland County are holding a news conference >> https://bit.ly/3y9eqmH

Posted by WMBF News on Thursday, May 13, 2021

The soldier-in-training reportedly escaped the base in the early morning hours of May 6 with his military-issued rifle and wound up hijacking the school bus with the children aboard.

The trainee, who officials said is from New Jersey, was later taken into custody. He appeared to be trying to get back home after three weeks of basic training, Fort Jackson commanders said.

“This is a traumatic event that will last a lifetime,” Sellers said.

Father Josh Flores said his two daughters, ages 11 and 6, were on the bus at the time of the hijacking. He noted the children referred to the suspect as “the solider” and asked him why he was so sweaty and if he was going to hurt them.

“The kids were all nervous. All of them were getting hysterical,” Flores said.

He added his oldest daughter has autism and has been struggling with the events of that day.

“Right now, she’s just in a dark place,” Flores said.

Sellers said he believes there were failures along the way that allowed the trainee, identified as Jovan Collazo, to board the bus with a weapon. He added he is seeking “transparency and justice” for all the children who were impacted.

“You’ve got to ask yourself, how does a guy, how does a soldier from Fort Jackson get off the base with a gun. How does that happen?” Flores said.

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