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Judge: Megabus driver not guilty in fatal bridge crash

From The Post-Standard

By Jim O’Hara

Megabus driver John Tomaszewski was found “not guilty” on Tuesday in connection with the 2010 crash on Onondaga Lake Parkway near Syracuse that killed four passengers on his bus.

County Judge Anthony Aloi ruled from the bench that there was simply no evidence Tomaszewski acted in a criminal manner required to find him guilty of felony charges of criminally negligent homicide.

The judge also ruled there was insufficient evidence to find Tomaszewski guilty of a charge of failure to obey a traffic control device.

The judge quickly added his acquittal of Tomaszewski on the criminal charges was in no way meant to diminish the tragedy that resulted in the loss of four lives.

“There is no way to compensate for the loss and heartbreak or to provide closure,” Aloi said in announcing his verdict. “There is no closure when you lose a child,” he added.

Aloi said he did not believe the lives lost in the crash were “in vain” given the attention the crash focused on the low CSX railroad bridge over the parkway and the dangers it has posed for years to high vehicles.

“There should be a permanent solution to that inherently dangerous CSX bridge,” the judge said.

Aloi said that could be done by lowering the road or raising the bridge. But he said he thought the best solution was to remove the bridge altogether.

As part of his verdict in the criminal case against Tomaszewski, Aloi on Tuesday ordered unsealed and released to the public the report a county grand jury issued early last year following its investigation of the fatal crash and the history of crashes at the bridge over the parkway.

Defense lawyer Eric Jeschke said he and his client were relieved at the judge’s verdict. Senior Assistant District Attorney Chris Bednarski said he was disappointed in the outcome of the trial.

Jeschke said Tomaszewski did not want to talk to reporters about the case. But when he emerged from the courtroom after the acquittal, Tomaszewski stopped and spoke briefly to reporters gathered in the hallway.

“It was a tragic accident. Unfortunately four people lost their lives,” he said, expressing sympathy for them and their families. He also said it was a tragedy he was going to have to live with for the rest of his life.

“Justice has been served,” Jeschke said, adding he felt “great” for his client getting out from under the cloud of criminal charges in the fatal crash.

“It’s humbling. It’s still sad for the other families,” Jeschke added.

The lawyer said he expected Tomaszewski would reach out to the victim’s families in some manner sometime soon.

“He knows he’s partially to blame for this,” Jeschke said, adding Tomaszewski was responsible for “a large portion” of what happened and has been saddened about that from the beginning.

Authorities said Tomaszewski was driving the double-decker bus from Philadelphia to Toronto – with a scheduled stop at the Regional Transportation Center in Syracuse the morning of Sept. 11, 2010 – when he missed the exit from Interstate 81 to Park Street and the transportation center.

That put him on the parkway, a road he had never driven before. Within two to three minutes of leaving I-81, the bus slammed into the bridge over the parkway about 2.2 miles from the interstate.

Killed in the crash were former Camillus resident Deanna Armstrong, 18, of New Jersey; Temple University student Kevin Coffey, 19, of Kansas; Ashwani Mehta, 34, of India, and Benjamin Okorie, 35, of Malaysia.

Posted by on Feb 28 2012. Filed under Latest News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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