PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office filed criminal charges Wednesday against two Port Authority bus drivers involved in a crash on the Parkway North.
Back in September, both drivers allegedly gestured to one another before one lost control. One bus went over a hillside and came to rest in the 3900-block of Evergreen Avenue on the North Side. The driver was injured as a result of the crash.
Today, both drivers were charged.
KDKA’s John Shumway Reports:
Thomas Frauens, 56, was charged with a total of 10 counts, including accident involving death or personal injury, accident involving damage to attended vehicle, and four counts of recklessly endangering another person.
He is also facing summary offenses of driving at an unsafe speed, careless driving, reckless driving and not notifying police of an accident.
Juliann Maier is facing four counts of recklessly endangering another person. She is also facing summary offenses of driving outside lane, charges of driving at unsafe speed, careless driving, and reckless driving.
The Port Authority and the District Attorney’s Office claim the drivers were speeding and engaged in alleged horseplay when they collided.
“They were going fast,” Jim Ritchie of the Port Authority said. “They were switching lanes, as I said, they were gesturing to each other at the same time and at some point, the buses did make contact with each other.”
According to the criminal complaint, Maier and Frauens left the Perrysville Garage to begin their afternoon shifts.
As Frauens went to pass Maier on the left, she waved and he responded with a gesture indicating he wanted to race.
At that point, speeds picked up to about 63 mph.
At one point, she moved her bus toward him and he moved to the left. This happened three times.
On the third occasion, she lost control, crossed all three lanes of traffic, narrowly missed a car, went through the guardrail, down the hillside and landed just on the edge of Evergreen Avenue.
Debris from the bus, barely missed a vehicle on Evergreen Avenue as well. Fortunately, there were no passengers on the bus at the time of the crash.
Meanwhile, Frauens’ attorney maintains a mechanical malfunction may have caused the accident.
KDKA’s Harold Hayes Reports:
Maier, still in a wheelchair, and Frauens turned themselves in Wednesday morning at the Municipal Courts building.
But as both prepare for their criminal cases in the incident, Frauens’ attorney says his client had no idea there was any impact between the two buses.
“He was unaware of any type of an accident,” said Bruce Carsia, Frauens’ attorney. “He knew that she went over the guardrail, and crashed through the guardrail, and over the embankment, but didn’t know, doesn’t know and is not saying that his bus had anything to do with her bus going over the guardrail.”
The criminal complaint lists times and speeds based on their videotape and other monitoring evidence. Those speeds reached 64 and 65 miles an hour, according to investigators.
Frauens’ attorney says his client never thought that he was speeding. He also says the statement Maier gave to investigators bolsters their claim there was mechanical problems with the bus.
“She just lost, when they went around the turn, she lost control of the vehicle, her bus,” said Carsia. “She says nothing about any type of an accident or anything other that caused it, other than that there was something wrong with the steering mechanism.”
Maier’s attorney, Joel Sansone, was critical of District Attorney Stephen Zappala, calling the decision to prosecute Maier political.
KDKA’s Harold Hayes Reports:
He was also critical of a legal process that put his client in jail for a time Wednesday while she’s still in a wheelchair. Maier suffers from broken ribs, a broken leg, pelvis and finger.
Sansone says that due to the hour she arrived, Maier was put in the night court rotation for arraignment and has been confined to jail until that arraignment sometime Wednesday night. Night court begins at 6 p.m.
Sansone produced still pictures of what he sees as mechanical problems with other buses, which were sent anonymously to his client he says.
He claims the accident that caused his client’s bus to roll down a hillside was not the result of horseplay between drivers, but rather problems with the bus she drove.
However, he says he has not been allowed to see the maintenance records of the bus she drove.
“We have been contacted by innumerable drivers who have told us this bus was a walking or a rolling death trap,” said Sansone. “This bus should have been taken out of service a long time ago along with all of the other buses of this same make and model. They put my client in a death trap, they almost killed her and could have killed many people and this district attorney thinks this is the person to charge with a crime.”
Maier’s husband Ron was also at news conference but only said a few brief words.
The Allegheny County D.A.’s Office released this statement Wednesday evening:
“The Port Authority Police obviously have excellent officers who are well qualified to handle this type of matter. This was a thorough and complete investigation and the affidavit sets forth a number of reasons, including objective video evidence, detailing why the charges were filed. The truth of this matter will play out in a court of law and not in the media.”
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