Driver facing charges in bus crash that hurt Bucks students

Matt Cruz, 16, of Neshaminy High was critically injured in the bus crash
Matt Cruz, 16, of Neshaminy High was critically injured in the bus crash
Posted: April 12, 2013

Massachusetts state police will bring criminal charges against a Philadelphia bus driver who crashed a coach full of Bucks County students into an overhang on a Boston road in February.

The crash injured dozens, including Matt Cruz, 17, a Neshaminy High School sophomore, who remains paralyzed from the chest down and is continuing to recover from spinal injuries at Magee Rehabilitation Center, according to his lawyer, James Ronca.

Samuel J. Jackson, 67, of West Philadelphia, will be charged with criminal negligence as well as civil charges of failing to obey signs and driving a bus on an unauthorized road, according to police. In a news release, the police said Jackson "failed to heed warning signs" posted about height restrictions, and did not slow down when approaching the 10-foot overhang into which the bus smashed.

Attempts to reach Jackson Thursday were unsuccessful and messages left for his attorneys were not immediately returned.

On Feb. 2, Jackson was driving a coach filled with students and chaperones with the Bucks County nonprofit Destined for a Dream. The group, 42 people in total, had visited Harvard University during the day.

Around 7:30 p.m., on the way back to Bucks County, the bus hit the overhang on Soldiers Field Road, a major road in Boston but one preceded by height restriction signs.

After the crash, Raymond Talmadge, owner of Calvary Coach, the bus company hired by the nonprofit, told NBC10 that Jackson was looking down at his GPS and missed the signs. A message left with Calvary on Thursday was not returned.

More than 30 people on board were injured, including Cruz and Iris Sykes, 43, who were both injured critically. Sykes was in the hospital for several weeks after the crash with head and neck injuries, her lawyer Thomas Kline, said at the time, but she was discharged in late February.

The Cruz family has sued Jackson and Calvary, alleging that Jackson should have seen the signs.

After the charges were filed by police, Megan Cruz, Matt Cruz's mother, said in a statement through her attorney that "we appreciate the efforts of the police and the Boston prosecutor's office" in investigating the incident and filing charges.

A Cruz family friend, Juli Flynn, said in an e-mail this week that several teenagers had begun planning a fund-raising event for the Cruz family. They hope to raise money to make the Cruz home wheelchair-accessible. The event is scheduled for 7 p.m. May 11 at Our Lady of Grace School gym in Penndel. Tickets will be available at the door for $10.


Contact Chris Palmer at 609-217-8305, cpalmer@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter, @cs_palmer.

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