FORT COLLINS, Colo. (KDVR) — The death of 37-year-old Jason Telleen was caught on video from multiple angles. The Loveland man was run over by a coworker driving a city bus at the Fort Collins Transfort facility on Jan. 24.
Outside footage of the crash and dash-cam video from inside the bus show the driver hitting Telleen while Telleen was walking on a bus tarmac. The footage then shows the bus driver backing over Telleen’s body as the bus was approaching bay 11. It happened at the city’s bus headquarters in the 6500 block of Portner Road, just after 7 p.m.
“It’s unbelievable that if you kill a coworker at the city of Fort Collins, it’s like committing the perfect crime,” said Jason’s mother, Patricia Telleen.
In an exclusive interview with FOX31, Telleen told the Problem Solvers she can’t comprehend how the man who killed her son wasn’t given so much as a traffic citation.
“It was not a situation where someone came out from behind a building or a blind corner. Jason was walking across a wide-open parking lot,” Telleen said.
“We’re feeling like this investigation was not done in a way that was impartial and fair,” said Telleen’s attorney, Matthew Haltzman, who added, “We learned that this was not just an avoidable accident, but one that had such a degree of negligence that it rises to the level of criminal.”
The Larimer County District Attorney’s Office disagreed, determining after a Fort Collins police investigation that no charges were appropriate.
The deadly workplace accident was not investigated by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration — OSHA — because it does not have jurisdiction over state and local government workers in Colorado.
The city of Fort Collins confirmed for the Problem Solvers that it did comply with federal law related to rules on post-accident testing for fatal accidents, and the driver’s alcohol and drug test results were negative.
Video shows what happened before deadly bus crash
FOX31 is not identifying the driver because he was not charged, but body camera video obtained by the Problem Solvers shows the driver asking a supervisor after the accident, “Am I fired?”
He wasn’t terminated or cited with a traffic offense, even though the dash camera video reviewed by the Problem Solvers shows Jason Telleen visible for 8 seconds on the driver’s left side as he drives down the center of the tarmac before taking a hard left, just before the driver attempts to enter bus bay 11.
The footage suggests that Telleen assumes the bus will keep going straight, passing Telleen on his left side, and so he makes no effort to avoid the bus until it’s too late. The bus takes a hard left and rolls right over Telleen.
After the driver strikes Telleen, he immediately realizes he’s hit something and backs up. Dash camera video reveals Telleen’s body on the ground as the bus rolls in reverse.
In an interview with police recorded on body camera, the driver said, “When I made the turn to go into (bus bay) 11, I hit something. What the hell was that? I thought it was like ice fell or something, and I backed up and I saw a body laying there, and I just went into shock.”
When a police officer later tells the driver that Jason Telleen died from the impact, the driver is seen on the officer’s body camera bursting into tears.
While there is no doubt the driver felt awful, Haltzman, the attorney for Patricia Telleen, said criminal intention is not the issue, negligence is.
“I think the video really speaks for itself … The bus driver was not paying attention to what was in front of him,” Haltzman said.
Haltzman said he’s been involved in countless legal cases where a client was charged with careless driving and found it inconceivable that the bus driver in this case wasn’t charged with careless driving resulting in death.
“I think that the driver of that bus is getting a pass on charges because he is a city of Fort Collins employee, and that’s extremely concerning,” Haltzman said.
DA issues statement on deadly bus crash case
The 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Larimer County declined an interview request with the Problem Solvers but provided a lengthy statement explaining its decision not to seek charges.
Thank you for your inquiry on this case review. Your questions are ones that we also considered and reviewed extensively. As you know, we must consider not merely whether the facts meet the required legal elements, but also whether there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction at trial (unanimous decision beyond a reasonable doubt that each element of the offense has been proven), and whether the ends of justice are served by a prosecution regardless of the possibility of conviction. While the consequences of this accident are tragic, the evidence does not support the conclusion that [the driver] had the requisite criminal culpability when he drove into Mr. Telleen.
While parking area surveillance video clearly shows Mr. Telleen walking across the parking lot in front of the bus, that footage does not accurately reflect what the bus driver would have seen at the time. An initial review and reconciliation of the footage from the two internally mounted bus
cameras (including a windshield cam) demonstrated an inconsistency between what the driver was seeing versus what was recorded by the windshield camera. This disparity seems to be resolved based on the camera’s location and perspective (i.e. the bus camera that recorded what was in front of the driver is mounted to the upper right/passenger side of the bus windshield and the camera’s perspective is clearly not the same as the driver’s perspective). When interviewed, [the driver] was clear that he did not see Mr. Telleen on the tarmac at any point during the incident.
Additionally, the officer discussed, and the evidence supported, that complicating factors including lighting and a lack of reflective clothing likely impacted [the driver]’s view of Telleen. The location of impact is in a poorly lit area of the lot. From the video footage it appears that Mr. Telleen was wearing darker clothing which to an extent blends into the gray background of the asphalt/tarmac in the lot. While the windshield mounted camera captures Mr. Telleen walking across the lot at 7:05:11, [the driver] is looking out the front of the vehicle at that same moment (7:05:11) and clearly does not see him there. For the next 3-4 seconds, and as the gap between them closes, the driver is scanning left (out driver’s side window toward the bay) and in his rearview mirror to prepare his turn. This driving behavior (scanning several areas before executing a wide turn) was described as prudent and reasonable [commercial] driving by the investigating officer, who has a Class A CDL.
This is a heartbreaking situation, and we can only imagine the pain the Telleen family is going through at this time. We send our deepest condolences to the Telleen family.8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office
In an email, the city of Fort Collins told the Problem Solvers it has made safety changes at the city’s Transfort station since the accident.
A spokeswoman wrote, “High visibility vests were provided to staff prior to the incident; however, this was not a consistently enforced requirement … these requirements are now being consistently enforced.”
Fort Collins protected by Colorado immunity law
“Any changes that can prevent future harm or death are an amazing thing here, are a great thing. But it’s also a little too late, because Jason’s no longer with us,” said Haltzman, who is prevented from suing the city of Fort Collins because of Colorado’s Governmental Immunity Act.
Haltzman said the only remedy for a government worker killed on the job by a coworker is workman’s compensation.
“Because Jason was not married and did not have children, there’s no lost-wage benefit and the death benefit is $12,500. That’s exactly how much Ms. Telleen received from the city of Fort Collins for the death of her son: $12,500, which is less than the cost of his funeral,” Haltzman said.
“I want to get justice for Jason, “said Patricia Tellen, who added, “He was a perfect son. We were a team. He was all I had. It’s heartbreaking.”
Haltzman said the only way he can help his client get some measure of justice is to file a petition with the courts, asking a Larimer County judge to compel prosecutors to charge the bus driver. This would be based on expert testimony that prosecutors acted in a “capricious and arbitrary manner.”
Haltzman said he’s still gathering expert testimony and expects to file such a motion sometime this summer.
“I just don’t see how any reasonable prosecutor could look at this video and say that there wasn’t some degree of carelessness,” Haltzman said.
Larimer County prosecutors insist it is not worth putting the driver on trial. In the body camera footage, the driver can be heard telling an officer and victim advocate, “I mean, this kid was my friend. Yeah, I just killed my friend. How do you deal with that? How do you live with that?”