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Former school bus driver pleaded no contest in connection to fatal crash in Myrtle Beach area

A former Horry County school bus driver pleaded no contest to a traffic charge and was fined $155 in connection with a fatal crash involving a Myrtle Beach-area high school student, according to court officials.

Michael Joseph Burns, 78, pleaded nolo contendre last week to failure to yield the right-of-way, 15th Circuit Assistant Solicitor Paul Taylor said. The resolution of the case was a result of a negotiation between Taylor and Burns’ attorney, Gene Vaught, he said.

The charge stemmed from the Nov. 2, 2009, vehicle crash that killed 17-year-old Marc Chaplin. The teen's motorcycle and the school bus Burns was driving collided.

Marc Chaplin’s parents and their attorney, David Canty, could not be immediately reached Monday for comment.

But Vaught, Burns' attorney, said the agreement for the plea began immidately after a mistrial was declared on Nov. 30 after a jury deliberated for about two hours following a two-day trial in the case.

"In discussions with the solicitor and in discussions with Mr. Bruns, we concluded if we tried the case 10 times that may the result . . . He did not want to go through trial again and again," Vaught said.

During the trial, Burns testified he was not responsible for the teen's death.

Chaplin was going west on International Drive while Burns was going east. Burns attempted to turn left onto S.C. 31 when the crash occurred. Chaplin, a senior at the Academy of Arts, Sciences & Technology, died after his 2008 Kawasaki motorcycle and the 2004 school bus collided.

On Feb. 5, troopers with the S.C. Highway Patrol cited Burns with failure to yield the right-of-way after an investigation.

Chaplin's parents have sued the school district and state department of education for neglect, according to a lawsuit filed Nov. 2 in Conway.

Rodney and Cathleen Chaplin are seeking $600,000 for actual damages and legal fees in the suit.The Chaplins seek compensation for the "extreme emotional anguish, lose of care, comfort and companionship" by their son's death. They also seek to recover compensation for doctor fees, hospital bills and funeral expenses.