The superintendent of the New Jersey school district in which a bus driver taking students and teachers on a field trip allegedly made a sudden U-turn on a highway median, colliding with a dump truck and killing two passengers, says the district had no idea of the 77-year-old driver's lengthy history of license suspensions and moving violations.
Paramus Schools Superintendent Dr. Michele Robinson said in a statement to News 4 Wednesday, "I am shocked, saddened and angry to read news reports concerning the school bus driver's driving record. Nothing that was provided to the district by the state reflected that the driver had any moving violations. In fact, all we were told is that he was a driver in good standing and eligible to operate a school bus.
"If these news reports are true, our community and our children deserved better than to receive incomplete information about his record," said Robinson.
The school bus driver, Hudy Muldrow Sr., had a total of 14 license suspensions, eight speeding tickets, a careless driving ticket and a ticket for an improper turn in 2010, a spokeswoman for the Motor Vehicle Commission told News 4 Tuesday. The most recent suspension was from Dec. 20 of last year to Jan. 3 of this year for unpaid parking tickets.
Muldrow had a commercial driver's license issued in 2012 and got the school bus endorsement on his commercial driver's license in 2013, the MVC said.
Investigators are still probing the cause of the May 17 crash, which killed a 10-year-old student and a teacher after the full-size school bus collided with a dump truck on Route 80 near exit 25 in Mount Olive Township. Video from a Department of Transportation camera shows the school bus filled with fifth-graders making a sudden U-turn in a median, sources have told News 4.
The bus, which was carrying 38 students and seven adults from East Brook Middle School in Paramus, was heading to a class field trip to Waterloo Village, a historic site in Stanhope.
Muldrow remains in the hospital and was unavailable for comment.
The Motor Vehicle Commission says that every entity that employs school bus drivers must keep up-to-date driver history abstracts for each driver But on the MVC website, the public only find information about mechanical inspections of buses -- there's no information about whether bus companies have accurate knowledge of their drivers' infraction history.
The I-Team has asked the Motor Vehicle Commission if the Paramus School Board had ever been issued a violation for not keeping driver history abstracts; the agency did not answer by Wednesday afternoon. It also hasn't responded to whether the MVC is aware how many school districts statewide have been cited for failure to keep accurate driver history records.
Parents in New Jersey want to change that and make bus drivers' records more accessible. Brian Wheelock and Gabrielle Wheeley know how difficult it is: they've been trying to get information about a substitute driver who became erratic on their kids' Parsippany route last year.
"Based on my calls and my research into the matter, I couldn't find out anything on this driver, or there even was such a file," said Wheelock, estimating he spent 200 hours looking for the driver's record.
"The bus company was completely unresponsive to us when we asked," said Wheeley.
Meanwhile, the lawyer representing the family of 10-year-old Miranda Vargas, who was laid to rest Monday, sent a notice of tort claim to the Borough of Paramus and the Paramus school board Tuesday, indicating the family plans to sue. The lawyer is questioning whether the Paramus Board of Education did proper diligence in hiring a driver with his record.
Funeral services for the teacher killed in the crash, Jennifer Williamson-Kennedy, will be held Thursday morning.