UPDATE: Grand Jury Decides Fate Of “Distracted” Truck Driver In Fatal Indiana School Bus Crash
Marshall County, Indiana – A Marshall County grand jury has recommended not to file charges against a truck driver who an Indiana State Police (ISP) investigation reported was removing his sweatshirt moments before he plowed into a school bus killing a 14-year-old student.
Matthew E. Sarber, Marshall County deputy prosecuting attorney, made the announcement on Friday that charges will not be filed against 26-year-old Tylor Perry in connection to a truck/bus accident along US 31 on December 5 of last year. Perry was behind-the-wheel of the flatbed truck when it struck a Winamac Community Middle School bus at a railroad crossing in the northbound lanes of US 31.
The impact from the crash killed 8th grade student Owen Abbott and 22 students in all were treated at local hospitals for non-life-threatening injuries.
ISP released the findings of their investigation last month. According to ISP, Perry slammed on his brakes and attempted to swerve to the left to avoid the bus after removing his sweatshirt and seeing the bus was stopped at the crossing.
Three witnesses said Perry did not apply his brakes until right before the collision. The report listed “distraction” as the primary cause of the crash.
Sarber said he and his team had “mixed feelings” about whether to charge Perry. He said he decided to take this matter to a grand jury because he thought the people of the community should decide Perry’s fate. “If we had mixed feelings, the larger community would have mixed feelings,” he said. “That is why we presented it to a grand jury.”
Sarber said the state statute the grand jury considered in the case required them to determine whether Perry acted recklessly. Sarber explained the reckless statute requires conduct deemed to be a “plain, conscious and unjustifiable disregard of the harm that might result, and that disregard involves a substantial deviation from acceptable standards of conduct.”
Though Perry will not be criminally charged, he along with his employer, are being sued by the mother of Owen Abbott. The suit alleges Perry is liable for Abbott’s death because Perry was “negligent” in the crash for “failing to obey the bus stop arm” and for “failing to maintain control of his vehicle.”