Megabus crash trial gets underway in Syracuse

John Tomaszewski

A trial has started for the New Jersey Megabus driver charged in the deaths of passengers killed in a collision with a railroad bridge outside Syracuse.

John Tomaszewski is facing four counts of criminally negligent homicide and one count of failure to obey a traffic control device. The 60-year-old from Yardville, New Jersey, recently opted to have a bench trial instead of having a jury decide his fate.

Lawyers delivered their opening statements Tuesday morning.

Prosecutors say Tomaszewski was checking a personal global positioning system device and had ignored numerous signs warning of a low bridge ahead when the Megabus he was driving slammed into the CSX-owned span over the Onondaga Lake Parkway on September 11, 2010. Four people were killed and two dozen more were injured.

The defense says some blame for the crash belongs to CSX, the state DOT and the federal government for not improving safety at the parkway bridge, which had a history of violent crashes. Tomaszewski's lawyer says the parkway bridge's dangerous condition made the crash "inevitable" and the people responsible are not on trial right now.

A detective testified and said there was no evidence that Tomaszewski was using his cell phone at the time of the crash.
The detective also testified that the address for the Regional Transportation Center was the most recent destination on the GPS in the bus.

An Onondaga Co. Sheriff's Deputy says Tomaszewski told her he was listening to directions from his GPS before the crash.

An accident reconstruction expert for the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department testified that the railroad bridge over Onondaga Lake Parkway has an 11 foot 10 inch clearance but is posted as a 10 foot 10 inch clearance due to a state law.
The expert also testified that the bus would have been 13 feet tall with the hydraulic shocks on.

The crash, along with other recent incidents, led to increased warnings and signs on the highway as well as a ban of commercial vehicle traffic.

(Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.)