PARAMUS, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The 77-year-old driver of a school bus that crashed into a dump truck last week on a New Jersey highway has been charged in the deaths of two of his passengers.
Hudy Muldrow Sr., of Woodland Park, N.J., was driving a bus full of children and teachers to Waterloo Village in Stanhope when the bus was struck by a dump truck on Interstate 80 in Mount Olive.
Investigators say he tried to merge onto the interstate and then turned sharply toward a U-turn area on May 17. The bus and the truck then collided, killing 10-year-old fifth-grader Miranda Vargas and 51-year-old Jennifer Williamson.
The crash sheared the bus from its wheelbase and crushed the front end of the dump truck.
Muldrow “disregarded the marked No Turn sign and turned Bus #2 to the left in an apparent attempt to gain access to an official-use only access point located between the East and Westbound lanes of Route 80,” the affidavit says.
Police say Muldrow has been charged with death by auto and will be taken into custody Thursday. A detention hearing is scheduled for Friday.
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.
“I am shocked, saddened and angry to read news reports concerning the school bus driver’s driving record. Nothing that was provided to the district by the state reflected that the driver had any moving violations,” Paramus Schools Superintendent Dr. Michele Robinson said in a statement. “In fact, all we were told is that he was a driver in good standing and eligible to operate a school bus. If these news reports are true, our community and our children deserved better than to receive incomplete information about his record.”
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.
“Just seeing all those kids having to go through that, honestly it’s really sad and I hope the parents can get justice,” Paramus resident Justin Obergon said.
“He shouldn’t have been driving that bus,” a woman added.
It wasn’t immediately known if Muldrow had retained an attorney.
Earlier on Thursday, a funeral was held for Williamson at Our Lady of Visitation Church, where loved ones said goodbye to the beloved teacher.
For two decades, Williamson taught the same grade in the same classroom at East Brook Middle School in Paramus.
“It’s really hard to accept that she’s gone,” said a seventh grader named Sophia. “She loved all of her students. She was nice to everyone. She really helped other students.”
Her students say Williamson was so dedicated, she would spend her lunch break with them so staff would bring her a turkey sandwich every day.
“The next day after the accident I got into my friend’s car, I said, ‘let’s go to the same deli we always go to’ because, Jen, that’s where I would get her her sandwich,” a woman named Michelle said. “And I felt something and I pulled out a wad of singles and I said, ‘this is Jen. She wants me to get her one last sandwich. ‘”
Williams’ funeral comes three days after Vargas was laid to rest.
“It’s something that should have not been,” one parent said. “It’s a tragedy for Miranda’s family as well and all the other kids that are still in the hospital.”
Later Thursday night, more than 1,000 people turned out for a vigil, shining a light on what it means to be Paramus Strong. They packed the high school football field to remember the victims, celebrate the survivors and thank those who helped after the horrible crash.
“No words to describe,” one woman told CBS2’s Jessica Layton.
“Definitely had a lot of tears, for sure,” said another.
“Very emotional,” another added.
A spokesperson with the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission said Muldrow has a long history of violations including a total of 14 license suspensions, 13 for administrative reasons such as lack of insurance and canceled registration.
He has also received eight speeding tickets and a careless driving ticket. His son said his father is a good person and is still recovering from his injuries.
“He’s in pain, he’s talking,” said Hudy Muldrow, Jr. “He said that he was sorry that two people lost their lives.”
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)