DA to seek homicide charges in Parkway Megabus crash

The bus crash aftermath on September 11 / file photo

The Onondaga County District Attorney TMs Office held a news conference Friday morning to announce that it will be seeking criminally negligent homicide charges for the September bus crash on the Onondaga Lake Parkway that killed four people and injured 24 others.

District Attorney William Fitzpatrick says he will seek charges of criminally negligent homicide for each passenger who was killed when his office takes the case before a Grand Jury. Fitzpatrick says he will file the charges against 59-year-old Megabus driver John Tomaszewski.

"This is not some 20-year-old that rented a U-Haul to take his furniture back home," says Fitzpatrick. "This is a trained driver who has the lives of 25 to 30 people in his hands in driving that bus."

CSX, the owner of the railroad tracks and bridge over the Parkway that the bus crashed into, could also be implicated by the District Attorney TMs Office, based on the premise that the company has known about the dangers of the low bride for decades and has done nothing about it.

The bus, carrying 28 passengers and its driver, was traveling from Philadelphia to Toronto when it crashed into the railroad bridge spanning the Parkway near Liverpool at 2:30 a.m. on September 11, 2010. According to police, Tomaszewski was using a personal GPS before his 13-foot-high double-decker bus struck the bridge, which has a clearance of 10 feet, 9 inches.

There are twelve warning signs, some with flashing lights, along the Parkway leading up to the bright orange bridge. The signs warn trucks and other tall vehicles of the bridge's low height.

Fitzpatrick says he has heard from CSX and says they complained about the cost of raising the bridge. He says he replied "Don't tell me - tell that to the families of four dead people."

The crash killed a New Jersey teenager originally from Camillus, a Philadelphia college student from Kansas, a Malaysian preacher, and an information technology specialist from India.

Fitzpatrick says he also feels that the State of New York shares responsibility for the crash. He says he will ask the Grand Jury to consider issuing a report which could call upon the State Department of Transportation to take immediate steps to make the Parkway safer. The D.A. says he expects the DOT to install more safety devices this spring, but he says it's "unacceptable" for either the State or CSX to delay action any longer.

Megabus , which operates about 100 double-decker buses on scheduled routes to 33 cities in the Northeast and Midwest, has carried close to seven million passengers since its launch in 2006, with no previous fatal highway accidents, the company said in September.

According to the company website, CSX Transportation has a network of railroads covering about 21,000 miles of track in 23 states, the District of Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.

CSX released a statement Friday afternoon, saying "CSX continues to cooperate with the district attorney TMs office as it reviews the circumstances of the tragic accident of September 11, 2010. CSX believes that it has acted properly and in compliance with applicable laws and regulations relating to the railroad bridge over the Onondaga Lake Parkway."