MORRISTOWN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Wednesday was sentencing day for the former Paramus school bus driver responsible for a deadly crash. Loved ones for both the victims and the driver offered emotional impact statements, as they appealed to the judge to hand down a fair sentence.
In the end, Hudy Muldrow Sr. was sentenced to up to 10 years in state prison. At the earliest, the 79-year-old will be eligible for parole in six years. After his release, he will lose his license for two years and spend three years on supervised parole.
The judge heard tearful pleas from Muldrow’s family, who begged him to show mercy, while the victims’ family members said the bus driver should pay for what he did, CBS2’s Jessica Moore reported.
Inside the Morris County courtroom, family members of the victims fought back tears as they held photos of their loved ones who were killed in the deadly 2018 school bus crash. Among them was social studies teacher Jennifer Williamson, whose mother spoke directly to Muldrow.
“You are a very lucky man. You are able to wake up and see your family, play with your grandchildren, enjoy a meal. Everything you can do was taken away from my precious daughter. You are the reason she isn’t here. Your complete negligence and poor judgment took that all away,” Delores Williamson said. “My heart is broken. My family is shattered and sad.”
Prosecutors say in May of 2018 Muldrow recklessly attempted an illegal U-turn on Route 80 in Mount Olive while driving East Brook Middle School students on a field trip. A dump truck hit the bus, killing Williamson and fifth grader Miranda Vargas.
“Today, I stand here, my heart is destroyed. Because of one careless act of a man, two beautiful souls were taken. This could’ve been prevented,” said Lorena Vargas, the little girl’s mother. “She was my everything. My sweet Miranda was 10 years old and had a heart of gold.”
“Miranda was my twin sister and we had an inseparable bond. We did everything together,” Madison Vargas said. “Me and Miranda were on different buses and we were wondering why because every field trip, we were always together. Sometimes I wish I was on that bus with her so in Miranda’s last moments, I could be the one who was with her from the beginning to the end.”
“My heart hurts knowing I couldn’t be there to hold her hand. I never got to see her in the hospital. I never had a chance to say goodbye,” Lorena Vargas said.
The Vargas family also spoke directly to Muldrow.
“I hope you get what you deserve and rot in jail,” Madison Vargas said.
“I trusted you and the people who put you behind the steering wheel to protect our children. Instead, you thought of yourself,” father Joevanny Vargas added. “What the hell were you thinking?”
Another 43 students and staffers were injured in the crash.
“I get angry about what happened and question why,” said Sophia Russo, who was sitting next to Miranda Vargas at the time of the crash. “I had to watch my friend get CPR and pass away in front of me. Do you know how hard that is, to watch your friend pass away, knowing you can do nothing? … I had to go to my teacher’s funeral, who I was very close to.”
Parent after parent said their child lost their innocence that day, is scared to ride on another bus and now suffers post-traumatic stress disorders.
One 12-year-old girl said she will never forget the smell or sounds.
“I was underneath the bus, not knowing where I was. My head was pounding. I saw the bloody faces and I heard the ringing in my ears and my classmates screaming and crying with fear,” she said. “This was true terror … He has made my entire life a living hell. The thoughts won’t leave my mind.”
On Wednesday, Muldrow apologized.
“I just want to say I’m sorry. I have a lot of remorse and I loved those kids that I was driving,” he said.
“This situation right here is going to be what he is remembered for,” said Sgt. 1st Class Ronnie Murphy, Muldrow’s son. “Today, I’m going to lose my father. I understand everybody here has lost somebody.”
Murphy added his father committed “10 seconds of misjudgment,” and begged the judge not to define him by one careless act.
“Your honor, I just ask you to have mercy on my father. That’s a good man. That’s a good man because he produced a good man. I know I’m a good man because I was raised by one,” Murphy said.
Muldrow has a long history of driving infractions, including eight speeding tickets between 1975 and 2001 and multiple driver’s license suspensions.
While imposing his sentence, the judge said everyone loses in this situation. A student poetically added that day put scars on faces, stitches in skin and holes in hearts.
The sentencing wraps up the criminal proceedings against Muldrow, but he still faces more than a dozen civil lawsuits filed by parents and teachers.