MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Six months after a cement truck slammed head-on into a school bus filled with summer campers, prosecutors in Nassau County said the driver of the truck was on drugs.
As CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, Raymond Ragen, 44, pleaded not guilty when he was indicted and arraigned Wednesday on numerous charges, including manslaughter, aggravated vehicular homicide, driving while impaired by drugs, unlicensed operation of a vehicle and driving while talking on a cell phone, among others.
In July of last year, Ragen was driving a cement truck on Oyster Bay Road in Locust Valley when his 13-foot-high truck crashed into a 10-foot high Long Island Rail Road overpass, prosecutors said.
The truck then careened into oncoming traffic and slammed head-on into a school bus carrying special-needs children home from summer camp, prosecutors said.
The bus driver, 45-year-old Jorge Guevara, suffered extensive internal injuries and died while still pinned inside the bus, prosecutors said.
“It’s really hard because I have my 2-year-old asking every day ‘when is my daddy coming back,’” Guevara’s widow, Claudia Guevara, said after Ragen’s arraignment. “He doesn’t understand.”
Three children on the bus suffered minor injuries while a fourth had a fractured jaw. A 64-year-old bus attendant was also injured. He had multiple fractures and a broken and dislocated hip that required two surgeries, according to officials.
Six months later, the injured bus attendant was still barely able to walk, and talk about his greatest concern that tragic day.
“If (the children) could get off the bus alive and see their parents” was what Louis Kragouras said he wondered in fear.
Prosecutors described the carnage in the crash as horrific.
“The incredible violence and pain inflicted upon Mr. Guevara cannot be overstated, nor can the physical and emotional trauma suffered by the other five bus passengers,” Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a statement.
Rice said Ragen was high on Valium at the time of the crash.
“We must continue to hold people like Raymond Ragen accountable for the danger they pose and the irreparable damage they cause when they get high and then get behind the wheel,” Rice said.
Ragen was also talking on his cell phone while driving the nearly 40,000-pound cement truck, according to Assistant Nassau District Attorney Brendan Ahearn.
Outside the courtroom, Claudia Guevara said her husband was a role model to the children on the bus, as well as his own four kids.
“My husband was a healthy guy, He was a runner. He never did drugs,” she said.
Parents of the injured children listened as prosecutors detailed Regan’s long criminal history of drug arrests. Attorneys for the victims have also filed suit against the cement company he worked for, claiming he never should have been behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle.
“This guy has had priors, including other drug charges,” attorney Charles Gucciardo said. “Terrible.”
Regan’s attorney, David Besso, called the crash a “tragic accident” and not a crime. He said Ragan was driving slowly and safely and was not impaired.
Besso also emphasized that Valium is not illegal.
Bail was set at $750,000 cash. Ragen is due back in court on Feb. 20.
The cement company did not respond to CBS 2′s requests for comment.
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