MORRISTOWN, NJ - The driver of a school bus involved in a crash on Route 80 last week that killed two people faces two counts of second-degree vehicular homicide/death by auto, local and state authorities announced Thursday morning.
The driver, Hudy Muldrow, 77, of Woodland Park, attempted to make an illegal U-Turn on the highway in an attempt to find his way to Waterloo Village, the planned destination of the bus that was loaded with students and teachers from a Paramus middle school, officials said.
Muldrow's decision resulted in the bus being struck by a dump truck traveling in the middle lane of the interstate, an impact that nearly demolished the bus and killed a fifth-grade student and a teacher from East Brook Middle School, said Morris County Prosecutor Fredric Knapp and New Jersey State Police Acting Superintendent Patrick Callahan in a joint statement.
The crash took place in Mount Olive at about 10:20 a.m. The bus being driven by Muldrow was one of three from the middle school en route to the historic village on a field trip. The bus Muldrow was driving is called Bus #2 in a description of the incident provided by Knapp and Callahan.
"The investigation has revealed that Bus #2, as well as two (2) other buses, left the school on the morning of May 17th en route to Waterloo Village," says their statement. "Shortly after 10:00 a.m., the three (3) buses exited Interstate 80 West at exit 25 onto Route 206 North. It is believed that shortly thereafter, the three (3) buses missed a turn that would have taken them to Waterloo Village."
The officials said the bus drivers then "drove in an effort to correct their route" but failed to stay together.
"Bus #3 detached from the other two buses and arrived safely at Waterloo Village," says the statement. "Thereafter, it is believed that Bus #2 separated from Bus #1. Bus #1 eventually arrived safely at Waterloo Village."
But Muldrow, separated from the others and failing to get onto Waterloo Road—which would have taken him to his destination—headed south on Route 206 in Byram toward the westbound Route 80 ramp, according to law enforcement.
"At or near the point of entry onto Route 80 Westbound from the on ramp, Hudy Muldrow is alleged to have turned Bus #2 to the left in an apparent attempt to gain access to the official-use only access point located between the East and Westbound lanes of Route 80," they said.
"As part of this maneuver, it is alleged that 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. Route 80 Westbound in this area is a three (3) lane highway. At this time, Bus #2 was impacted by a dump truck that was traveling in the center lane of Route 80 Westbound. As a result of the impact, Bus #2 was redirected and came to rest in the center median. "
Knapp and Callahan said the impact tore the body of the bus off its chassis.
In addition to the two deaths, the crash resulted in "numerous injuries to other occupants" of the bus driven by Muldrow, said the authorities. "The driver of the dump truck also sustained various injuries," they said. "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."
The criminal complaints in the case were sworn to by New Jersey State Police Detective I Daniel Wojcik, a member of the New Jersey State Police Fatal Accident Investigation Unit – North Squad, said Knapp and Callahan. They noted the incident remains under investigation by State Police and the Major Crimes Unit of the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office.
The charges were authorized by state Superior Court Judge Stephen Taylor on Thursday morning, said Knapp and Callahan. They said Muldrow will be placed in the Morris County jail pending a first appearance likely to take place Friday at the Morris County Courthouse.