The 77-year-old school bus driver who crashed last week after he allegedly crossed three lanes of traffic on Route 80 in Mount Olive with 44 passengers onboard was charged Thursday with recklessly causing the deaths of a child and a teacher, according to criminal complaints.
Hudy Muldrow Sr. of Woodland Park was charged with two counts of death-by-auto, also known as vehicular homicide, for allegedly driving recklessly and causing the deaths of bus passengers Miranda Vargas, 10, and Jennifer Williamson-Kennedy, 51, a Paramus social studies teacher.
A three-bus convoy left East Brook Middle School last Thursday morning heading to Waterloo Village, a historic site that reenacts life along the Morris Canal, for a field trip. But the convoy of buses made a wrong turn and each driver attempted to reach the destination in their own way, according to a state trooper's affidavit.
Muldrow was the second driver to break from the convoy, and he drove his bus back toward Route 80, according to the affidavit. Muldrow allegedly made a hard left from the on-ramp across three lanes of traffic in an apparent attempt to gain access to the official-use-only access point between the eastbound and westbound lanes of Route 80, the affidavit said.
"As part of this maneuver, Hudy Muldrow turned Bus #2 so that it was positioned in an almost-perpendicular direction in relation to the lanes of travel on Route 80 Westbound," the affidavit said.
The bus then was struck by a dump truck that was traveling in the center of three lanes on the highway. The impact occurred on the left side of the bus, near its rear.
"As a result of the impact, Bus #2 was redirected and came to rest in the center median," the affidavit said. "Hudy Muldrow failed to maintain Bus #2 in its designated lane of travel when executing this maneuver. "
Authorities and rescuers were dispatched to the scene at about 10:20 a.m. When they arrived, the body of the bus waslying on its left side in the median of the road. The body had detached from the chassis "due to the force of the impact with the dump truck," the affidavit said.
Muldrow turned himself in to state police and the Morris County Prosecutor's Office on Thursday, said Matthew Reisig, Muldrow's attorney.
"Last Thursday’s accident is a truly tragic event," Reisig said in a statement. "We mourn the loss of life and our thoughts and prayers are with the families so affected. Likewise, that extends to all those that were injured in this accident."
Muldrow had his license suspended 14 times since he began driving in 1975, a state Motor Vehicle Commission spokesperson has said. Muldrow has eight speeding tickets on his record, as well as one careless-driving ticket and a summons for unsafe operation of a motor vehicle from 2003.
Six of the license suspensions were due to unpaid parking tickets. That includes Muldrow’s most recent suspension, which lasted from Dec. 20, 2017, to Jan. 3, 2018. The state also once suspended his commercial driver’s license for administrative reasons.
Dr. Michele Robinson, the Paramus schools superintendent, said the district had no knowledge of Muldrow's moving violations.
"Nothing that was provided to the district by the state reflected that the driver had any moving violations," Robinson said in a statement late Wednesday night. "In fact, all we were told is that he was a driver in good standing and eligible to operate a school bus."
Authorities said state police from the Netcong barracks would be taking Muldrow to the Morris County jail, where he would spend the night before a Superior Court judge on Friday would determine whether he should be released or remain in custody.
An affidavit filed by Trooper Daniel Wojcik confirmed previous NorthJersey.com reports that Muldrow attempted to access the official-use-only cutaway between the eastbound and westbound lanes of Route 80 and was struck by a dump truck.
There were 38 students and six teachers aboard Muldrow's bus for the field trip to Waterloo Village in Sussex County. The affidavit states that Muldrow and the dump truck driver, who was not identified, were injured, along with multiple other passengers aboard Muldrow's bus.
"The full extent of the non-fatal injuries has yet to be determined but range from minor to multiple serious and potentially life-threatening injuries," according to Wojcik's affadavit.
Among the injured was Brendan O'Callaghan, a fifth-grade student who has no memory of the accident and broke several bones, including his temple and collar bone.
"I'm sure he made a crucial mistake," Brendan's father, Arnie O'Callaghan, said of the bus driver on Sunday. "I don't want to see him suffer. He needs healing, too. … I feel no hatred toward him."