Family and friends of the student from Rocky Hill killed in a school bus crash told a crowded room at the state Capitol today that a seat belt would have saved Vikas Parikh’s life, and called on the state lawmakers to require school buses have seat belts.

“We fully believe our son would have been with us today had there been seat belts,” said Pratik Parikh, Vikas’ father.

Dolly Parikh speaks in favor of seatbelts in school buses accompanied by her husband, Pratik, right in grey sweater.
Dolly Parikh speaks in favor of seatbelts in school buses accompanied by her husband, Pratik, right in grey sweater.

The Transportation Committee is hearing public input today on a proposal by state Rep. Antonio Guerrera‘s, D-Rocky Hill, to require seat belts on school buses.

“Before you vote yes or no just think about if it had been your son,” said Dolly Parikh, Vikas’ mother, and then turned to her family and began crying.

Guerrera said the final details of his proposed requirement will be determined following today’s public hearing.

Several people were injured in the accident and Keye Frank, a classmate of Vikas’ at Greater Hartford Academy of Mathematics and Science in Hartford, said two students and the teacher on the bus have yet to return to school because of their injuries. Vikas was the only person killed in the crash after being thrown from his seat.

Buses currently are designed to comply with a federal safety standard known as compartmentalization, which relies on padding and flexible seats placed close together to absorb impact and protect students in a crash.

Sameer Laul, Vikas’ best friend, said he witnessed compartmentalization fail his friend.

“I saw him in his last minutes. … If we had acted sooner maybe this wouldn’t have happened.”

Read the full story on the proposal here.

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

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