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4 passengers in Megabus crash file lawsuits

Four passengers involved in the fatal crash of a double-decker bus that hit a railroad bridge in suburban Syracuse have filed lawsuits against the bus company and the driver.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) - Four passengers involved in the fatal crash of a double-decker bus that hit a railroad bridge in suburban Syracuse have filed lawsuits against the bus company and the driver.

Four of the 28 Megabus passengers were killed and the driver and other passengers were hurt in the crash on the Onondaga Lake Parkway Sept. 11.

An Onondaga County grand jury will also be asked to look at possible criminal charges against the driver and CSX, the railroad company that owns the bridge.

The passengers' lawsuits seek more than $50,000 each in compensation for injuries they suffered when a Megabus heading from Philadelphia to Toronto got lost in Syracuse and crashed into the CSX railroad bridge.


DA to investigate criminal charges against railroad, bus driver<BR>Dec. 17

Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - The Onondaga County District Attorney announced on Friday morning that his office will investigate the possibility of leveling criminal charges against the driver of the Megabus whose alleged negligence resulted in the death of four passengers in September. He is also taking to task the company responsible for the bridge that the bus slammed into, saying that it is high time something was done about a bridge that presents such danger.

"This is not some 20-year-old who rented a van to take his college furniture back home.  This is a trained driver who has the lives of 25 to 30 people in his hands while driving that bus," District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said during a Friday press conference.

In addition, Fitzpatrick told members of the media that his office will present evidence to a grand jury that they hope they will result in a lawsuit against CSX, the railroad company responsible for the bridge that the Megabus slammed into in September. He believes the company could face criminal liability as well, considering the number of low-bridge accidents that have taken place there.

"What [Sheriff Kevin Walsh] and I are talking about is seeing that it wont happen again. It's obviously too late for four people and their families, but to say we're going to put up another sign up, or use brighter paint, it's just not acceptable," Fitzpatrick said.

"There is a level of frustration and concern," Sheriff Walsh said. "This has been a problem for many years, and the remedies the State has come up with have not solved the problem for us."

Fitzpatrick will also give evidence to a grand jury he believes could results in criminally negligent homicide charges against the bus driver, John Tomaszewski. An Onondaga County Sheriff's Office investigation found that Tomaszewski was distracted by a GPS device when the Megabus crashed.

Along with the four people killed in the crash, 23 others were hurt. One of them, Candice Burks, has already sued the bus company and the driver for severe head, neck, and back injuries she suffered in the accident. CSX, in the meantime, issued a statement late Friday afternoon, saying they continue to cooperate with the investigation.

In the past, Fitzpatrick has had discussions with the State Department of Transportation and CSX regarding the bridge. Both have told him making alterations to the bridge would be costly and expensive. During the press conference, Fitzpatrick offered a counter-argument. "Well, don't tell me, tell that to the families of the four dead people, how expensive it's gonna be 'cause I don't think they care," Fitzpatrick said.


Lawsuit launched over Megabus crash<BR>Oct. 15

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A woman injured when a double-decker bus crashed into a railroad bridge in Salina that killed four, filed suit Friday over the accident.
 
Candice Burks, 26, of Mount Laurel, N.J., suffered severe head, neck and back trauma in last month's crash and has permanent physical and cognitive injuries, according to the suit filed in Philadelphia.
 
She sued Megabus driver John Tomaszewski, of Yardville, N.J., and two companies that owned and operated the vehicle. The suit seeks more than $50,000. Shanin Specter, the lawyer who filed it, believes it to be the first suit filed over the crash.
 
Tomaszewski did not immediately return a message left at a number listed for him. Calls to the companies, Olympia Trails Bus Co. and Coach USA, were not immediately returned.
 
Burks was one of 28 passengers onboard the bus, which was traveling from Philadelphia to Toronto when it crashed at 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 11 in Salina.
 
According to police, Tomaszewski was using a personal GPS when his 13-foot-high double-decker struck a bridge with less than 11 feet of clearance. There are about 10 signs leading up to the bridge to warn trucks of the low bridge, some with flashing yellow lights, authorities have said.
 
Chicago-based Megabus operates about 100 double-decker buses on scheduled routes to 33 cities in the Northeast and Midwest, has carried close to 7 million passengers since its launch in 2006, with no previous fatal highway accidents, the company said.

Onondaga Lake Parkway cut to one lane each way<BR>Sept. 17

Salina (WSYR-TV) - Only one lane each way will be open on Onondaga Lake Parkway for the remainder of the day on Friday.
 
The New York State Department of Transportation is repairing the railroad bridge damaged in Saturday's fatal Megabus crash. Officials hope to complete the work by 3 p.m.
 
On Saturday, four people were killed in the crash, and 23 others were hurt when a Megabus struck the bridge.

Sheriff's Office: Megabus driver was checking a personal GPS<BR>Sept. 15

Salina (WSYR-TV) - Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh has confirmed the driver of a Megabus that crashed into a railroad bridge across Onondaga Lake Parkway, killing four people, was using his personal GPS at the time.
 
The driver, John Tomaszewski, who was released from the hospital on Monday, told the Sheriff's Department that he was listening to the device in order to get directions to the Regional Transportation Center after missing the turn.

Investigators found the device and were able to confirm that it was personal because they found his home address programmed into it. There is no indication that Tomaszewski was using or reaching for a cell phone at the time of the crash.

The sheriff will meet with the Onondaga County District Attorney's office in the next few days to discuss whether any tickets will be issued or charges filed in the case.

Senior VP of Safety for Coach USA, Don Carmichael told NewsChannel 9 that Tomaszewski has been withheld from service pending the completed investigation. Megabus drivers are not paid unless they are working.

Personal use of a GPS device is against company policy. When drivers are lost, the company expects them to pull over and ask for directions.

Firefighters sort through deadly Megabus crash<BR>Sept. 13

A Megabus on its side after hitting bridge (Jennifer Lewke)
A Megabus on its side after hitting bridge (Jennifer Lewke)
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Megabus crashes into Parkway bridge (Jennifer Lewke)
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Liverpool (WSYR-TV) - During an emotional meeting in Liverpool, firefighters discussed and reflected on what they saw Saturday when they responded to the deadly Megabus crash on Onondaga Lake Parkway. Four people were killed in the crash, and 23 others were hurt.

The crash is a moment many of the rescue crew members will never forget. Counselors were on hand at the fire department Monday evening to jump-start the healing process.

Earlier Monday, Fire Department personnel suggested that the bridge spanning the Parkway be raised or the road lowered to prevent future crashes. Others say better lights on the bridge or placing an overhead barrier across the road would be helpful deterrents for drivers whose vehicles are too tall.

The driver of the Megabus, John Tomaszewski, was released from the Hospital Monday. The investigation into the crash is continuing. So far, no tickets have been issued.

Fatal bus accident highlights danger of low bridge<br/>September 13

Salina (WSYR-TV) - The crews that worked tirelessly to save the lives of passengers involved in a fatal Megabus crash over the weekend say something different needs to be done to alert drivers to the low clearance railroad bridge spanning Onondaga Lake Parkway.  Four people were killed and nearly two dozen injured when the double-decker bus crashed into the bottom of the bridge and toppled over. 
 
Saturday's accident is the most recent of eight accidents involving the bridge over the last five years.
 
On Monday, Fire Department personnel suggested that the bridge be raised or the road lowered. Others say better lights on the bridge or placing an overhead barrier across the road would be helpful deterrents for drivers whose vehicles are too tall.
 
At the moment, at least five warning signs caution motorists about the low hanging bridge.
 
Tractor trailers are technically prohibited on the parkway but oftentimes the signs are ignored and the Liverpool Fire Department gets called in to assist. Both emergency officials and residents who live near the parkway say something must be done.
 
"I just don't think it's adequate to even warn people, I drove this way a few minutes ago and was looking at the signs, they may be adequate if it's the middle of the day and you're wide awake but if it's the middle of the night, it's a different story," said Dana Horrell, who travels on the parkway every day.
 
Saturday was a worse-case scenario for the Liverpool Fire Department. Without some kind of change on the parkway, Fire Chief Gary Vincitore says he also worries about chemical spills. "We've made recommendations of what to put there and they have done that, i just don't know what more we can do," he said. "There's all kinds of stuff that comes through and stuff that comes through on the railroad tracks too. We have to consider that."
 
Sheriff Kevin Walsh agrees and says while the Department of Transportation explores other possibilities to deal with the bridge, they need to stay on top of the commercial drivers who continue to use the road beneath it. "If they're out there, they're probably going to get a ticket for disobeying the signs for being out there in the first place but certainly that's better than striking the bridge and dealing with that," Walsh said.
 
The State Department of Transportation has been conducting a traffic and engineering study in the parkway area and the regional DOT office referred NewsChannel 9 to Albany on Monday for a comment on the study's progress. Calls to Albany were not returned, however.

Driver from weekend Megabus crash released from hospital<BR>Sept. 13

Salina (WSYR-TV) - John Tomaszewski, the driver of the Megabus that crashed Saturday morning on Onondaga Lake Parkway, has been released from the hospital. Only two passengers from the bus remain hospitalized.

The bus departed Philadelphia on Friday around 10:00 p.m. and was scheduled to stop in Syracuse and Buffalo en route to Toronto. Onondaga County Sheriff's Deputies say the bus was too tall for the bridge over Onondaga Lake Parkway. The bus struck the bridge and flipped over onto its side at about 2:30 Saturday morning.

Tomaszewski has been employed with Megabus since December 2009 and Philadelphia-Toronto is his regular route. Sheriff Kevin Walsh previously said the driver had suffered a head injury and was unable to provide significant information about the crash. With the announcement of Tomaszewski's release from the hospital, no information was provided about his participation in the investigation.

Of the 27 people aboard the bus at the time of the crash, four passengers were killed and everyone else was taken to four area hospitals. So far, everyone but passengers Lo Wah Chu and Mabel Tabb have been released. Chu, 55, of King of Prussia, Pa., is listed in critical condition at Upstate Hospital. Tabb, 79, of Philadelphia, is in stable condition at Crouse Irving Hospital.

The crash remains under investigation by the Sheriff's Office Accident Investigations Technicians. No tickets have been issued and no arrests have been made at this time.

Sheriff: Fourth victim identified; former Camillus resident<br/>September 13

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Salina (WSYR-TV) The Sheriff’s department has identified the fourth victim in Saturday’s deadly bus accident as 18-year-old Deanna Armstrong of Vorhees, New Jersey. Sheriff Kevin Walsh says Armstrong lived in Camillus until a year ago before moving.
 
A person from India and a man from Malaysia were also among the dead from. Two are still in area hospitals with injuries ranging from serious to critical condition.

The driver is listed in serious condition at Upstate University Hospital. He’s has been identified as John Tomaszewski, 59, of New Jersey. The Sheriff’s department says no tickets have been issued at this time, but Sheriff Walsh says any charges will depend on what their investigation reveals.

Walsh says despite warning signs regarding the 10’ 9’’ bridge and red reflective tape covering the bottom portion of the bridge, the bus continued on the roadway.

“We believe he missed the Park Street exit and continued on the road which took him to Onondaga Lake Parkway,” said Walsh. “We believe the injuries were on the top portion of the bus.”

Walsh says because of the impact, the roof of the double-decker bus peeled back.

There have been at least seven accidents involving the CSX Railroad Bridge since 2005, but none as serious as Saturday’s accident.

Gene Cilento with the New York State Department of Transportation says the State has been studying Onondaga Lake Parkway for the past several years for a road rehabilitation project. Cilento says the study focuses primarily on accidents caused by cross over traffic. However, he says the state has looked at lowering the road beneath the bridge to create more clearance. “It’s not an easy fix,” Cilento says. “The area has multiple ownerships between the county and state.” Cilento adds lowering the road would be a problem because it would put the road at the same level of the lake and make it prone to flooding.

Cilento says it’s too early to say what the state will do, but it’s all dependent on the investigation.

The following is the passenger list released by the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department:

Deceased:
Kevin Coffey, 19, Kansas
Ashwani Mehta, 34, India
Benjamin Okorie, 35, Malaysia
Deanna Armstrong,18, New Jersey

Other Passengers:
Lo Wah Chu, 55, Pennsylvania (Critical Condition)
Christine Alderman, 44, New York (Serious Condition)
Carl Kerr, 51, Pennsylvania (Serious Condition)
Mabel Tabb, 79, (Serious Condition)
Valbhiv Kothari, 21, Pennsylvania
Pavan Nukgia, 23, Pennsylvania
Gregory DeAntonio, 33, Pennsylvania
Raymond Reed, 72, Ontario
Vicki Reed, Ontario
Jessica Arnold, 23, Ontario
Laura Treadway, 24, Pennsylvania
Lee Veeraraghan, 27, Pennsylvania
Jeremiah Covey, 32, Delaware
Candice Burks, 26, New Jersey
Sarah Haney, 24, Pennsylvania
Branislav Nikolic, 25, Ontario
Maja Nikolic, Ontario
Trevor Janega, 23, Pennsylvania
Pradeesh Nair, 25, Pennsylvania
Ahyeon Park, 23, Ontario
Tien Nguyen, 27, Maryland
Reena Rai, 36, Pennsylvania
Mythili Soundararajan, 36, Maryland



Liverpool, NY (WSYR-TV) – Four people are dead after a bus hit the railroad bridge on Onondaga Lake Parkway. Coach USA, which operates Megabus.com, says the bus was heading from Philadelphia to Toronto.

Deputies say the bus was too tall for the bridge when it struck the bridge and flipped over onto its side at about 2:30 Saturday morning.

Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh says the four people who died include a 19-year-old man from Kansas, an unidentified woman, and two people who are not from the United States.

27 people were on board the bus. The driver and the rest of the passengers were transported to four hospitals. 16 people have been treated and released so far. Some of the people injured in the crash have serious injuries.

Senior VP of Safety for Coach USA Don Carmichael says the bus departed Philadelphia on Friday at 10:00 p.m. The destination was Toronto, with stops scheduled in Syracuse and Buffalo.

Carmichael says the driver has been employed with Megabus since December 2009 and Philadelphia-Toronto is his regular route. Carmichael says the bus was not travelling on its designated route. There are no low bridges on that route.

We’re told the bus was scheduled to make a stop at the Regional Transportation Center.

"Our immediate thoughts and concerns are with those who have lost their lives or been injured, as well as their families and loved ones," Carmichael said. "Safety is our absolute priority and we will be carrying out a full investigation into the accident as well as assisting the police and other authorities in any way that we can."

Sheriff Walsh says the driver suffered a head injury and investigators have not been able to get much information from him.

The Megabus has been removed from the scene and Onondaga Lake Parkway is now back open to traffic.
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