Arrest - Photo courtesy of Kindel Media on Pexels

Felony charges were filed against an 88-year-old man suspected of rear-ending a school bus a year ago Friday in Desert Hot Springs, then maneuvering around it and striking a group of children — killing a 9-year-old girl and injuring her 6-year-old brother and two girls.

Robert William Hanson of Desert Hot Springs was charged Thursday with two felony counts, one each of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and of reckless driving with a sentence enhancing allegation of causing great bodily injury, according to court records.

He additionally faces two misdemeanor counts, one each of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence and being an unlicensed operator.

It’s alleged that Hanson was driving a white Cadillac sedan on Dec. 9, 2021 and rear-ended a bus at around 4 p.m. in the 17500 block of Corkill Road, according to California Highway Patrol officer David Torres. No injuries were reported among the students on the bus.

After the crash, Hanson allegedly drove around the bus, veering onto the right shoulder of southbound Corkill Road, hitting a speed limit sign and plowing into four young students walking on the shoulder, Torres said.

Monica Gonzalez Guzman, 9, of Desert Hot Springs, died, and three other students, identified in court documents only by the initials B.H., E.S and J.L., suffered varying injuries, Torres said.

Hanson and the injured victims, Monica’s brother J.L., 11-year-old E.S., and 12-year-old B.H., were all taken to Desert Regional Medical Center for treatment.

J.L. was subsequently taken to Loma Linda Children’s Hospital to be treated for serious injuries including a skull fracture, according to a declaration in support of an arrest warrant filed by Investigator S. Iniguez with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office. E.S. and B.H. sustained minor injuries.

Bus driver Carol Custer said she felt the impact at the rear of the bus before she saw the Cadillac go around at about 40 mph when it collided into a roadway sign and multiple children, according to Iniguez. B.H. said she felt an impact on the left side of her body while she was talking on her cell phone before the car drove into the sign and hit the three other children.

“It is overwhelming to hear and process this kind of tragic news,” Palm Springs Unified School District Superintendent Mike Swize said shortly after the incident.

“We want our families and staff to know that we are here for them to provide any support they need now or in the coming days and weeks ahead. All of us at Palm Springs Unified extend our heartfelt condolences at this most difficult time.”

Authorities said drugs and alcohol were not factors.

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