Shortly before 10 a.m. Wednesday, Winona County Judge Nancy Buytendorp sentenced Thomas V. Weaver in the tragic school bus accident more than a year ago that killed 73-year-old Winona resident Judith J. Whetstone.
Whetstone was riding her bicycle to a nearby tennis court the morning of April 25, 2011, and was traveling westbound on Sarnia Street. According to the accident report, Weaver was driving a Minnesota City school bus and took a wide left turn at Chippewa Street, entered the bike lane and struck Whetstone. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Weaver was charged with careless driving and sentenced to 90 days in jail, with a stay execution of 83 days, probation of up to one year, 50 hours of community service, a $100 fine with an $85 surcharge, and must provide a written apology to the family within 30 days.
Friends and family members of Whetstone showed up for the sentencing and three impact statements were read. John Fox, family friend of more than 40 years, read statements from Whetstone’s two children, Joy and Jay, and husband, Jerry.
“She was the most stable and strong foundation a son could hope for,” Jay Whetstone wrote.
“No longer do I have someone to make decisions with,” Jerry Whetstone wrote. “What a wife she was. She was so special.”
The defense attorney said Weaver acknowledged the bus entered the bike lane and that he did not see Whetstone, but said his client wasn’t acting distracted.
“He was not texting or using his cell phone,” the attorney said. “He was not reading or drinking anything. Weaver is a law abiding citizen and there isn’t a day that goes by that he doesn’t think about this accident.”
Weaver was granted work release privileges during his incarceration period and appears at the Winona County jail June 10, 2012, at 9 a.m. to begin his jail sentence.
“This is kind of what we expected as far as sentencing,” Joy Whetstone said. “Nothing can bring mom back. Our loss has already taking its toll. We just have to let justice prevail.”