UNITED STATES NEWS

Driver acquitted in deadly Megabus crash in NY

Feb 28, 2012, 6:06 PM

Associated Press

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) – A bus driver was acquitted Tuesday of homicide in the deaths of four passengers killed when his double-decker crashed into an overpass in upstate New York.

A judge announced the verdict after a non-jury trial for 60-year-old John Tomaszewski of Yardville, N.J. Tomaszewski would have faced up to four years in state prison on each of four counts of criminally negligent homicide. He sat with his head bowed and showed no reaction as Onondaga County Court Judge Anthony Aloi read the verdict.

“It was a tragic accident and four people lost their lives,” a weary Tomaszewski said as he left court with his wife, Valerie. “It’s something I’ll have to deal with the rest of my life.”

There were 29 passengers on the Megabus when the top of the bus hit the railroad bridge in Salina, just outside Syracuse, early on the morning of Sept. 11, 2010.

Tomaszewski was driving from Philadelphia to Toronto with a planned stop at the Regional Transportation Center in Syracuse when he missed an exit from Interstate 81 and ended up on the parkway instead.

Assistant District Attorney Chris Bednarski said during the trial that Tomaszewski was using a personal GPS device as he tried to find his way to the bus station and passed 13 low-bridge warning signs, some with flashing yellow lights, before the wreck.

“I’m disappointed for the families,” Bednarski said after the ruling. “They were expecting closure. They’re dealing as well as can be expected. It’s something you probably never recover from.”

Tomaszewski’s lawyer, Eric Jeschke, argued that state and CSX railroad officials were responsible for failing to fix the danger presented by the bridge, the scene of numerous accidents for years. He also said Tomaszewski had limited experience and was on the parkway for the first time after being diverted from his route.

The crash killed Deanna Armstrong, 18, of New Jersey; Temple University student Kevin Coffey, 19, of Kansas; Benjamin Okorie, 35, a Malaysian preacher; and Ashwani Mehta, 34, an information technology specialist from India.

Jeschke rested the defense case without calling any witnesses. He said he was humbled by the verdict.

“It is tragic. I feel great for my client but still sad somebody passed away,” Jeschke said. “Justice has been served, but it’s humbling. He’s relieved, but he’s sad. He knows he’s to blame.”

Several civil lawsuits have been filed against the bus company, Tomaszewski and others. They were put on hold pending the outcome of the criminal case.

Tomaszewski, who was seriously injured in the accident, also was found not guilty of one count of failure to obey a traffic control device for driving past the warning signs.

According to a state report, 53 vehicles hit the bridge between 1987 and 2010 when drivers failed to notice they wouldn’t make it under.

Aloi ordered the grand jury report about the circumstances of the accident to be unsealed so the public can view it.

“There should be a permanent solution _ lower the road, raise the bridge or remove it,” he said. “Hopefully, a permanent solution to this problem will be found. That’s not up to me.”

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

FILE - An orca swims past a recreational boat sailing just offshore in the Salish Sea in the San Ju...

Associated Press

To keep whales safe, Coast Guard launches boat alert system in Seattle

SEATTLE (AP) — Photographer Matt McDonald had lived on Puget Sound for years, but had never seen a whale, so he was elated when he spotted a giant marine mammal just off Seattle’s waterfront one evening. The excitement was short-lived. As McDonald tracked the whale in his camera’s viewfinder, a state ferry that dwarfed the […]

5 hours ago

FILE - From left, Glenn Horowitz, Craig Inciardi and Edward Kosinski appear in criminal court after...

Associated Press

An unusual criminal case over handwritten lyrics to ‘Hotel California’ goes to trial Wednesday

NEW YORK (AP) — A curious criminal case involving handwritten lyrics to the classic rock megahit “Hotel California” and other Eagles favorites is going to trial in a New York courtroom, with opening statements set for Wednesday. The three defendants, all well-established in the collectibles world, are accused of scheming to thwart Eagles co-founder Don […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Family friend of Texas girl Audrii Cunningham facing charges in 11-year-old’s death, prosecutor says

A family friend of 11-year-old Audrii Cunningham was in jail Wednesday as prosecutors say they plan to charge him in the girl’s death after her body was found in a river near her rural Texas home. Polk County Sheriff Byron Lyons said the body of the young girl — who went missing last week — […]

6 hours ago

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks to members of the media before boarding Marine One on the South L...

Associated Press

It’s an election year, and Biden’s team is signaling a more aggressive posture toward the press

NEW YORK (AP) — Occupants of the White House have grumbled over news coverage practically since the place was built. Now it’s Joe Biden’s turn: With a reelection campaign underway, there are signs that those behind the president are starting to more aggressively and publicly challenge how he is portrayed. Within the past two weeks, […]

6 hours ago

Emily Hollenbeck, a deep brain stimulation therapy patient, demonstrates an EEG device that records...

Associated Press

A pacemaker for the brain helped a woman with crippling depression. It may soon offer hope to others

NEW YORK (AP) — Emily Hollenbeck lived with a recurring depression she likened to a black hole, where gravity felt so strong and her limbs so heavy she could barely move. She knew the illness could kill her. Both her parents had taken their lives. She was willing to try something extreme: Having electrodes implanted […]

6 hours ago

FILE - Election judges demonstrate the accuracy of the city's voting equipment on Oct. 28, 2022, in...

Associated Press

Election officials in the US face daunting challenges in 2024. And Congress isn’t coming to help

WASHINGTON (AP) — With election season already underway, some state election officials are expressing frustration that Congress has yet to allocate federal money they have come to rely on to help cover the costs of securing their systems from attacks, updating equipment and training staff. Election officials face a long list of challenges this year, […]

7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

...

Sanderson Ford

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.

Driver acquitted in deadly Megabus crash in NY