Driver charged in deadly school bus crash

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A school bus driver with a history of driver's license suspensions caused a fatal crash on a New Jersey highway last week by crossing three lanes of traffic in an apparent attempt to make an illegal U-turn, according to a criminal complaint released Thursday.

Authorities charged Hudy Muldrow Sr., 77, with vehicular homicide, also known as death by auto, in the deaths of 10-year-old student Miranda Vargas and 51-year-old teacher Jennifer Williamson. More than 40 others were injured, some seriously, in the May 17 crash between the bus and a dump truck.

The bus was one of three carrying students and teachers from a middle school in Paramus on a field trip to a historic site in western New Jersey, about 30 miles away.

According to state motor vehicle records, Muldrow had his license suspended 14 times between 1975 and 2017, mostly for administrative reasons. The most recent license suspension was in December for failing to pay parking tickets. He also had eight speeding violations between 1975 and 2001.

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.

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.

No drunken-driving infractions were on Muldrow's record.

On the day of the crash, Muldrow missed a turn, then merged onto Interstate 80 in Mount Olive, according to an affidavit filed by New Jersey state police. He quickly crossed three lanes toward a break in the median reserved for emergency vehicles to attempt an illegal U-turn," the affidavit says.

Muldrow "disregarded the marked No Turn sign" and turned his bus "to the left in an apparent attempt to gain access to an official-use only access point," according to the document.

It adds that Muldrow turned his bus "so that it was positioned in an almost-perpendicular direction in relation to the lanes of travel" on westbound I-80.

The crash, about 45 miles west of New York City, sheared the bus from its wheelbase and crushed the front end of the dump truck.

State police said Muldrow would be taken into custody Thursday. He was expected to make an initial court appearance Friday.

It wasn't immediately known if Muldrow had retained an attorney.