PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The two Port Authority drivers charged in a crash that sent one bus tumbling off the Parkway North earlier this year have been ordered to stand trial.
Key evidence was played and testimony was heard in court today during a preliminary hearing for Thomas Frauens and Juliann Maier.
RAW VIDEO: Bus Surveillance Footage:
District Judge Eugene Ricciardi then ordered the two bus drivers to stand trial in connection with the September accident on I-279.
Frauens, 56, is 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.
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.
Three witnesses who were driving on 279 the day of the crash took the stand. They testified about how the buses tried to pass each other and how they saw one bus lose control.
Karen Marchetti testified she saw two buses in front of her driving side by side, swaying and actually colliding.
She was behind them on I-279 as the bus Thomas Frauens drove overtook the green bus driven by Juliann Maier.
District Judge Eugene Ricciardi listened to four hours of testimony and saw the videotape from the bus Frauens drove, and determined both he and driver Juliann Maier should stand trial on charges in connection with the September accident that resulted in a bus rolling down a hillside of I-279.
Prosecutors say that video shows the buses jockeying for position. The defense says it shows a bus losing control because of mechanical problems.
Investigators also say the video shows frauens using what they call a “buggy whip” motion as if to encourage Maier to keep up.
A backdoor view shows how closely the buses come to each other. Marchetti testified she saw the green bus lose control and plunge over a guard rail after the collision.
Frauens then pulls over and goes out the back door to see what happened. Maier’s bus ended up on Evergreen Road. Some people on Evergreen began to attend to her. Brittany Biddle, meantime, sees the bus go over the railing and leaves her car to see what she can do to help.
Eight minutes after Thomas Frauens leaves the bus, he gets back inside, gets back in the driver’s seat and pulls away. Prosecutors say it was 40 minutes before he made contact with anyone at the Port Authority.
Juliann Meier now walks with the aid of a cane. Her attorney claims her bus had mechanical problems. A Pittsburgh Police investigator testified he found no such problems.
“There is no evidence that my client did anything on purpose or that Tom Frauens did anything on purpose to put anybody in danger,” said defense attorney Joel Sansone. “What kind of an idiot would try to play tag with a bus like that? It’s obvious from the eyewitness testimony that this bus started to slide and skid before she ever came near him.”
Sansone thinks his client is close to losing her job. The Port Authority says both defendants are off duty with pay “pending an investigation.”
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