WEST NEW YORK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A makeshift memorial has been growing at the site of a bus crash in West New York where an 8-month-old girl was killed.
Friends, relatives and strangers have been lighting candles and leaving flowers and teddy bears along Boulevard East.
As CBS 2’s Don Champion reported, the parents of the little girl, Angelie Paredes, were too hurt to talk for themselves Wednesday afternoon. Instead, Jairo and Maylin Paredes spoke through a friend the day after the accident.
“Maylin, the mother, is very distraught,” said the friend, Julio Marenco.
“Just terrible, it’s really just very, very sad” said West New York resident Debbie DiNatale. “I just can’t even think of what the mom’s going through.”
Angelie died Tuesday after police said a bus driver was using his cell phone when he lost control and triggered a chain reaction crash.
The bus struck a lamppost, which fell onto the infant’s stroller, police said. The bus then hit a tree, another lamppost and a parked car, which struck three other parked vehicles, police said.
“As (Maylin Paredes is) walking with the baby carriage and dog, all she heard was two loud sounds, and then blood and disaster,” Marenco said.
Officer Michael Stetson said he found Paredes bleeding from the head and not breathing. She died on the way to a hospital.
“The baby was not responding, the mother was next to the baby, crying on the floor, screaming,” said witness Johanner Romero.
In all, seven people were sent to hospitals.
The tragedy was deepening Wednesday for the Paredes family, who just got back from vacation in Florida with the newborn. During the vacation, Angelie stood up for the first time.
“As she’s crawling, she finally stands up, and she’s chasing the same heartbroken mom around the room,” the family friend said.
Meanwhile, the driver, 48-year-old Idowu Daramola, was charged with death by auto, reckless driving and using a cell phone while operating a vehicle.
“We don’t know if he was texting or talking on his phone,” said Hudson County Sheriff Frank Schillari. “This is what distracted him, we feel, and he lost control of his bus.”
Court records showed Daramola had two warrants out for him. One was out of North Bergen, N.J., for failure to appear for a complaint on staging a commercial vehicle, while the other was from West New York for failing to pay a ticket for dropping off passengers in an unauthorized area in 2011.
The jitney bus he was driving is operated by Sphinx Transportation, which provides shuttle service between New Jersey and New York City.
But people who live and work in the area said they can also be a nuisance.
“Those small buses, they’re unlicensed, some of them don’t have registration, some of them don’t have insurances and they’re still allowed to operate so it’s kind of troublesome,” said West New York resident Angel Intriago.
Sphinx Transportation has not commented on the accident.
CBS 2 tried talking to managers at Daramola’s bus company, but they wouldn’t go on camera. They would only confirm that drivers aren’t allowed to use cellphones behind the wheel.
Angelie’s family now hopes drivers who use cellphones learn from their loss and now pain.
“It’s a heinous stupid act that we all do, and hopefully, nothing great ever comes out of a situation like this — but let’s hope out of this, we all learn to stop doing it,” the family friend said.
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