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CHESTERFIELD TOWNSHIP, N.J. — No criminal charges will be filed against the drivers of a school bus and a dump truck that were involved in a fatal crash here in February 2012.
The collision occurred the morning of Feb. 16, 2012. John Tieman, 66, was driving the school bus to Chesterfield Elementary School when it was struck in the rear driver’s side by a dump truck driven by Michael Caporale, 38. The bus spun into a utility pole, killing 11-year-old Isabelle Tezsla. Seventeen other students were taken to area hospitals.
As previously reported, investigators found, among other things, that the bus "inched past a stop sign because of bad sight lines."
The Chesterfield Township Police Department and the New Jersey State Police subsequently issued citations for motor vehicle offenses.
A summons for failure to stop or yield was issued to Tieman by the Chesterfield Police Department. The New Jersey State Police Commercial Vehicle Inspection Unit issued summonses to Caporale for "failure to secure container" and "failure to tarp load." In addition, the state police issued four summonses to the owner of the dump truck, Herman’s Trucking of Wrightstown, for inadequate braking, exceeding gross weight (by 4,950 pounds), exceeding tire weight limit and over axle weight (by 13,450 pounds).
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) conducted its own investigation of the accident, finding that the probable cause of the Chesterfield crash was "the school bus driver's failure to observe the roll-off truck, which was approaching the intersection within hazardous proximity."
The NTSB also cited several factors that contributed to the severity of the crash, including the bus driver's poor sleep habits, the truck driver's traveling above the posted speed limit, the overloading of the truck and problems with the brake system on the truck.
Regarding the latest development that no criminal charges will be filed against Tieman and Caporale, Burlington County Prosecutor Robert D. Bernardi said, “After a comprehensive review of the findings of the [NTSB] and our investigation, this office has concluded that there is no basis for criminal charges to be brought against any of the involved parties [in] this horrific event. The NTSB report identified factors to the crash which clearly demonstrated negligent conduct on the part of several parties.
“However, in our view, the negligent conduct of the parties does not rise to the required level of recklessness that would be needed to bring criminal charges against any of the individuals involved in the collision. Recklessness requires a much higher degree of fault to be met by the state in a criminal prosecution than does the negligence standard used in a civil proceeding.”
Bernardi went on to say that while their hearts go out to the Tezsla family and the families of all the children on the bus, the office is required to evaluate the actions of the parties based on that standard of reckless conduct.
“In our view, those actions do not support the filing of criminal charges,” he added.
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