New Jersey School Bus, Dump Truck Crash Kills Girl


Posted on 18th February 2012 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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Federal safety officials will be getting a bird’s-eye view of the impact of a New Jersey law that requires school buses to have seat belts for passengers. They will trying to determine the effect of the restraints during an accident last week that killed an 11-year-old triplet girl.

Last Thursday a school bus and a dump truck in Burlington County, N.J., collided, an accident that not only left the girl dead but also seriously hurt her two triplet sisters, as well as an 11-year-old boy, according to The Star-Ledger of Newark.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating the accident, which took place at a four-way intersection in Chesterfield, N.J., at the crossing of Route 528 and Old York Road.

The Ledger reported that the NTSB wants to study what impact seat belts had in the aftermath of the crash. New Jersey is one of only six states that require seat belts for passengers in school buses. 

Some of the students on the bus in New Jersey were wearing seat belts, but the NTSB is trying to determine which passengers were wearing them and what effect that had on their safety, according to The Ledger.

At abour 8 a.m. Thursday the dump truck was traveling on Route 528 when it apparently went through an amber light and hit the bus in the driver’s side, The Ledger reported.  The school bus then hit a pole, which then partially went into the bus.

Isabelle Tezsla, one of the triplet daughters of New Jersey State Trooper Sgt. Anthony Tezsla, was killed in the crash. Her sister Natalie was no longer in critical condition, but had improved and is now in stable condition. But the third triplet, Sophie, was still in critical condition, as was 11-year-old Jonathan Zdybel, according to The Ledger.

Authorities haven’t filed any charges in the accident.


Pa. boy’s death during horseplay is ruled homicide


Posted on 30th January 2009 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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Date: 1/27/2009

Associated Press Writer

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A popular 12-year-old boy was struck and killed by a bus in front of his middle school as he apparently horsed around with friends before class, and officials have ruled the death a homicide.

Dakota Galusha had just been dropped off at Northampton Middle School by his mother Monday morning and was walking to the entrance with three or four friends when he fell under the rear wheels of a passing bus, said Northampton School District Superintendent Linda Firestone.

She said it appears Dakota and his friends were jostling one another, something she called “a natural interaction with middle school students.”

“I have no evidence of intentional pushing of the student at all, at this point,” she said Tuesday. “There may be pushing, but I don’t know that there was a plot to harm.”

Galusha died a short time after being hit. The Lehigh County coroner’s office ruled his death a homicide after an autopsy.

A homicide ruling does not necessarily mean a criminal act occurred. The decision to file charges rests with Northampton County prosecutors, and District Attorney John Morganelli did not immediately return a phone call Tuesday.

First Deputy Coroner Paul Hoffman said Tuesday that interaction between Dakota and another student caused the boy’s death. He would not be more specific but said that if Dakota had simply slipped by himself, his death would have been ruled an accident.

“There was an incident. I don’t know what you want to term that, whether it was horseplay or fooling around,” he said.

A spokesman for Dakota’s parents, Kendall and Dina Galusha, said the family believes his death was accidental and did not wish to press charges.

Police were interviewing witnesses Tuesday. Classes were canceled Monday at the 950-student school north of Allentown, although many students stayed to receive counseling.

Dakota, who went by the nickname “Kota,” played baseball, football and basketball and also liked to snowboard. He was a staunch New York Giants fan.

“He was fun; he talked a lot,” 13-year-old Giovanna Dematteo, whose father was Dakota’s football coach, told The Morning Call of Allentown.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Trial Lawyer Group Challenges Midnight Bus Regulation


Posted on 26th December 2008 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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The American Association of Justice, (AAJ) the national trial lawyer group that I play a brain injury leadership role in, has taken a strong stance to prevent last minute regulatory abuse by the Bush Administration. One of the worst aspects of the last days of the Bush Administration is there last days efforts to protect corporate wrongdoers from just claims from those injured by their products. The below press release from AAJ explains the nature of the challenge to such regulations.

Attorney Gordon Johnson
©Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr. 2008

AAJ Challenges NHTSA’s School Bus Safety Rule; Anticipates Long-Delayed Roof Crush Standard Next Week Preemption Clause in Rule Could Grant Vehicle Manufacturers Blanket Immunity from Lawsuits

Washington, DC — A final rule put forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) doesn’t go far enough to curb injuries associated with the nearly 2,000 school bus accidents each year, according to the American Association for Justice (AAJ). The association will file a petition for reconsideration with NHTSA tomorrow, challenging the agency’s final rule on school bus safety.

NHTSA’s final rule requires seatbelts for small school buses but only recommends seatbelts for larger school buses, fearing adding seatbelts on the larger vehicles would limit capacity and be cost prohibitive. Larger buses will be required to increase the seat back height four inches, just a fraction of the cost estimated for adding seat belts. The rule also includes preemption language that attempts to grant blanket immunity to the manufacturing industry that makes buses and their parts. The language would make it difficult to seek restitution through the civil justice system for injuries and fatalities associated with school bus accidents according to AAJ.

“NHTSA continues to allow corporate responsibility to take a back seat to children’s safety,” said AAJ President Les Weisbrod. “There is no reason to include preemption language that attempts to limit consumers’ civil justice rights in a rule about school bus safety except to give corporations yet another handout. Our children’s safety should be a first priority in school bus standards, instead NHTSA included an escape clause for corporate responsibility.”

Next week NHTSA is expected to release a final rule on roof crush resistance standards after years of study and delay. The current standard has been in effect since 1973, well before SUVs, prone to rollovers, were a popular consumer transportation option.

NHTSA was required to deliver a new roof crush standard to Congress by July 1, 2008, but was ordered by Congress to strengthen their proposed rule because it did not significantly reduce loss of life and prevent injury. NHTSA asked for an extension until December 15, 2008.

The timing is significant, because new Administrations generally seek to stay any final rules that have been put forth 60 days prior to the start of the term. The Bush administration had asked all final rules be complete by Nov. 1, 2008. A final rule put out December 15, 2008, could be subject to such a stay.

“On their way out the door, the Bush bureaucrats, continue to do all they can to try to take away people’s rights to access the civil justice system,” added Weisbrod. “We have seen this time and time again—school bus safety, seat belts, drugs and medical devices—the Administration thinks corporations can do no harm.”

As the world’s largest trial bar, the American Association for Justice (formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America) works to make sure people have a fair chance to receive justice through the legal system when they are injured by the negligence or misconduct of others—even when it means taking on the most powerful corporations. Visit

Woman gets nearly 13 years in fatal Minn. crash


Posted on 8th October 2008 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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Date: 10/8/2008 1:46 PM

MARSHALL, Minn. (AP) _ A woman who initially lied about her identity and still denies driving a van that slammed into a school bus, killing four children, was sentenced Wednesday to nearly 13 years in prison.

Olga Marina Franco Del Cid was sentenced on four counts of vehicular homicide in the Feb. 19 crash involving a bus from Lakeview School in the southwest Minnesota town of Cottonwood.

Franco was extricated from the driver’s seat of the minivan, which hit the school bus after barreling through a stop sign. But her attorneys tried to show during her trial in August that Franco’s boyfriend was driving, fled the scene and hasn’t been seen since.

“Franco’s sentence will end,” Lyon County District Judge David Peterson said. “For those parents dealing with injuries, it’s a daily struggle. For the parents dealing with lost children, it’s a lifetime of could-have-beens and might-have-beens that never will be.”

Through an interpreter, Franco asked for forgiveness for using someone else’s identity. She also asked for forgiveness for the crash, but still denied being the driver.

The children killed ranged in age from 9 to 13 and included two brothers. Fourteen other people were injured.


Information from: KMHL-AM,

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

Nephew: Ind. bus driver grieving students’ deaths


Posted on 28th September 2008 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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Date: 9/27/2008 7:38 PM

Associated Press Writer

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ The driver of a school bus struck by two dump trucks in rural northern Indiana is devastated that the four special-needs students she was taking home died in the crash, a relative said Saturday.

Debbie DuVall, 46, of Idaville, was seriously injured when the Twin Lakes School Corp. bus she was driving was struck Friday afternoon by two trucks about 70 miles north of Indianapolis.

Her nephew, Ryan DuVall of Fort Wayne, said Saturday that his aunt remained in intensive care but that her injuries were not life-threatening.

He said she was alert and conscious when she arrived at the hospital and was grief-stricken when told that the children she was driving home had died.

“The first thing she asked about was the condition of the kids. She wanted to know how the kids were, and the news was devastating for her. They were very dear to her,” Ryan DuVall said.

“Her family is feeling blessed that she came out of this the way that she did, but at the same time our thoughts, and especially hers, are with the families.”

The four children, ages 5 to 10, lived in nearby Monticello and attended schools in Logansport that catered to their special needs, Indiana State Police said.

The victims were identified by police as 5-year-old Lauren Melin, 9-year-old Kale Seabolt, and Trevor Ingram and Tyler Geiger, both 10.

Friday’s crash occurred when a Mack dump truck swerved to avoid a motor scooter that had stopped or slowed along U.S. 24 west of Logansport. The truck clipped the 15-passenger bus, which flipped on its side and slid into the path of a second Mack truck that struck its roof.

The bus then slid into a ditch and came to rest, its front end and roof crushed.

All four students and DuVall were wearing seat belts or sitting in a child safety seat.

State police Sgt. Tony Slocum said investigators returned to the crash scene Saturday to take photographs, make measurements and scour the crash site for evidence they may have overlooked after Friday’s crash.

State police experts were examining the crushed wreckage of the bus and the two dump trucks for any mechanical problems that could have contributed to the crash, he said.

Routine toxicology tests are pending on the three drivers. The driver of the motor scooter, Raymond Gust, 59, was not tested because he was not technically involved in the crash, Slocum said.

Gust had stopped or slowed to turn into the driveway of his home on the north side of the highway just before the crash, Slocum said.

In the coming days, Slocum said, troopers will conduct additional interviews with witnesses, Gust and the truck drivers, Terry Dixon, 53, and Joe Magers, 44, both of Logansport.

When she is well enough to speak to officers, DuVall will also be interviewed.

Slocum said it’s too early to speculate on the possibility of charges in the crash. Once the report reconstructing the events that led to the crash and the various witness accounts are compiled, a Cass County prosecutor will determine whether to file charges.

“We’re not leaving any stone unturned. We owe that to the families, at least, to make sure we’ve covered all the bases,” Slocum said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

Deadly Consequences of Mixing Cell Phones and Vehicle Operation


Posted on 24th September 2008 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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Just yesterday I was driving down a busy main street when a young girl pulled across traffic in front of me, narrowly missing a car in the oncoming traffic, all the while chatting animatedly on her cell phone. Its not the first close encounter I have had, not that long ago I was rear ended by an uninsured driver who openly admitted she wasn’t paying attention because she was on the phone. We’ve all had these close encounters in the past few years and the public’s awareness of the danger of driving while talking on a cell phone is not the issue, its the awareness of just how deadly the consequences can be. There have been some very tragic consequences in the headlines recently.

On Tuesday a Florida Highway Patrol report confirmed that truck driver, Reinaldo Gonzalez of Orlanda, had been on his cell phone when he slammed into a school bus which was stopped to let off children. A stop sign and flashing lights were not enough to alert a distracted driver. A 13 year old child was killed and several injured as a result. The driver of the truck leapt to safety before the two vehicles burst into flame. The occupants of the school bus weren’t so fortunate.

This tragic accident comes on the heels of a deadly train crash in California that killed 25 people. It is suspected that texting played a role in the crash. Two teenage train buffs disclosed that they had received a text message from the engineer just a moment before the crash. No phone was found at the scene.

Whether its texting or talking, government studies confirm that distracted drivers account for nearly 8 out of 10 collisions or near-crashes. “A researcher who worked on the 2006 study, Charlie Klauer of the Virginia Tech Traffic Institute, says the crash risk was doubled when a driver looked away from the road for two seconds out of six.”

Much of the focus of studies has been on young drivers. What makes these stories newsworthy is that in both cases adults were in control of vehicles capable of deadly destruction. This escalates the problem significantly. There is a big difference between a moment of distraction in a car and a moment of distraction in a train engine or a tractor trailer. The ability to react quickly is greatly reduced. As such, both drivers in these instances had a greater obligation to be diligent in the operation of these vehicles and should be under stricter guidelines for the operation of their vehicles.