JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Bail is staying at $250,000 for a bus driver who police said caused a chain reaction crash that killed an 8-month-old girl in a stroller and injured seven others in West New York earlier this week.
Idowu Daramola did not enter a plea during his court appearance Thursday. The 48-year-old is charged with death by auto, reckless driving and using a cellphone while operating a vehicle.
Daramola, who does not qualify for a public defender, will be arraigned when he finds an attorney.
Sporting a green jailhouse jumpsuit and bloodshot eyes, he told the judge, “I don’t have a lawyer. Can’t get a hold of him.”
Authorities said he was using his cellphone Tuesday when he lost control of the bus and struck the pole, which fell onto the stroller and killed Angelie Paredes.
The bus then struck a tree, another lamppost and a parked car, which hit three other parked vehicles, police said. In all, seven people were injured.
“We’re mourning. That’s it. We’re mourning,” Julio Marenco, a friend of the little girl’s family, told CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang.
“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 three open warrants out for him.
One was out of North Bergen for failure to appear for a complaint on staging a commercial vehicle. Another was from West New York for failing to pay a ticket for dropping off passengers in an unauthorized area in 2011. And the third was for allegedly running a red light in 2012, Jiang reported.
“I think it’s ludicrous that he was still driving,” Schillari said. “Apparently, it just slipped through.”
Schillari said he’s ordered a crackdown on bus companies operating in the county.
“To make sure the licenses are not fraudulent, insurance documents,” he said. “We’re going to try to prevent such accidents in Hudson County from here on in.”
He said they’ve already cited some companies.
The jitney bus he was driving is operated by Sphinx Transportation and provides shuttle service between New Jersey and New York City.
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez has called on federal officials to investigate the bus company and whether it has properly trained its drivers.
“While the driver is facing criminal charges, I have my own questions about the company that employed him,” Menendez said in a statement.
“I think we have a basic obligation not only to hold those responsible accountable, but to do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Sen. Menendez told WCBS 880’s Steve Scott on Thursday. “To the extent that these carriers are operating under the jurisdiction of federal law because they operate interstate, it seems to me that we need to make sure that the operators of these jitney buses are ultimately operating in accordance with law and of the higher standards because there are lives at stake.”
Sphinx Transportation has not commented on the accident.
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