A bus driver was acquitted Tuesday of homicide charges in the deaths of four passengers killed when his double-decker crashed into an overpass in upstate New York.
A judge announced the verdict after a non-jury trial for 60-year-old John Tomaszewski of Yardville, N.J. Tomaszewski would have faced up to four years in state prison on each of four counts of criminally negligent homicide. He sat with his head bowed and showed no reaction as Onondaga County Court Judge Anthony Aloi read the verdict.
"It was a tragic accident and four people lost their lives," Tomaszewski said as he left court. "It's something I'll have to deal with the rest of my life."
There were 29 passengers on the Megabus when the top of the bus hit the railroad bridge in Salina, just outside Syracuse, early on the morning of Sept. 11, 2010.
Tomaszewski was driving from Philadelphia to Toronto with a planned stop at the Regional Transportation Center in Syracuse when he missed an exit from Interstate 81 and ended up on the parkway instead.
Assistant District Attorney Chris Bednarksi said during the trial that Tomaszewski was using a personal GPS device as he tried to find his way to the bus station and passed 13 low-bridge warning signs, some with flashing yellow lights, before the wreck.
Tomaszewski's lawyer, Eric Jeschke, argued that state and CSX railroad officials were responsible for failing to fix the danger presented by the bridge, the scene of numerous accidents for years. He also said Tomaszewski had limited experience and was on the parkway for the first time after being diverted from his route.
Jeschke rested the defense case without calling any witnesses.
The crash killed a New Jersey teenager, a Philadelphia college student from Kansas, a Malaysian preacher and an information technology specialist from India.
Several civil lawsuits have been filed against the bus company, Tomaszewski and others. They were put on hold pending the outcome of the criminal case.