By DAVID PORTER, Associated Press
A school bus driver with a history of driver’s license suspensions caused a fatal crash on a New Jersey highway last week by crossing three lanes of traffic in an apparent attempt to make an illegal U-turn, according to a criminal complaint released Thursday.
Authorities charged Hudy Muldrow Sr., 77, with two counts of vehicular homicide in the deaths of 10-year-old student Miranda Vargas and 51-year-old teacher Jennifer Williamson. More than 40 others were injured, some seriously, in the May 17 crash between the bus and a dump truck.
The bus was one of three carrying students and teachers from a middle school in Paramus on a field trip to a historic site in New Jersey, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) away.
Muldrow missed a turn, then merged onto Interstate 80 in Mount Olive, according to an affidavit filed by New Jersey state police. He quickly crossed three lanes toward a break in the median reserved for emergency vehicles to attempt an illegal U-turn, the affidavit says.
Muldrow “disregarded the marked No Turn sign” and turned his bus “to the left in an apparent attempt to gain access to an official-use only access point,” according to the document.
It adds that Muldrow turned his bus “so that it was positioned in an almost-perpendicular direction in relation to the lanes of travel” on westbound I-80.
The crash, about 45 miles west of New York City, sheared the bus from its wheelbase and crushed the front end of the dump truck. The bus wound up on top of the guardrail on the eastbound side of the highway.
In an interview this week on CBS, Muldrow’s son said his father denied making a U-turn.
Muldrow had his license suspended 14 times between 1975 and 2017, mostly for administrative reasons, according to state motor vehicle records. The most recent license suspension was in December for failing to pay parking tickets. He also had eight speeding violations between 1975 and 2001.
At the time of the crash, Muldrow had valid driving privileges, a valid commercial driver’s license and a valid school bus endorsement, according to the Motor Vehicle Commission. He had earned his commercial driver’s license in 2012 and his school bus endorsement in 2013. The bus endorsement requires drivers to pass a background check, road test and a written test.
In the last 10 years, Muldrow has had three moving violations, for not wearing a seatbelt, careless driving and making an improper turn. None caused accidents or led to suspensions, according to Motor Vehicle Commission records.
There were no drunken-driving infractions on Muldrow’s record.
State police said Muldrow would be taken into custody Thursday. He was expected to make an initial court appearance Friday.
It wasn’t immediately known if Muldrow had retained an attorney.
A funeral Mass was celebrated Thursday for Williamson in Paramus. Her obituary noted she had taught in the same grade and same classroom at East Brook Middle School for 20 years. Vargas’s funeral was Monday.
A GoFundMe site set up for victims of the crash and their families had raised more than $41,000 as of Thursday afternoon.