The driver of a MBTA bus that was involved in a dramatic crash on the Massachusetts Turnpike has been charged with obstruction of justice, speeding, operating to endanger and impeded operation following the discovery that she was holding a cell phone in her hand at the time of the crash. The accident injured eight passengers and left the vehicle hanging over the turnpike from an overpass in Newton.
The Route 57 bus had been traveling on the Washington Street overpass in Newton when it suddenly veered off of the road and rammed into the guardrail. When it finally came to a stop it was with one wheel in the air. There were no other vehicles involved. Among the injured were the 43-year old driver, who has worked for the transit company for almost ten years, and several passengers. None of the injuries were life-threatening, but clean up of the accident required both the Newton Fire Department and state Department of Transportation engineers, who had to secure the bus before removing it from the scene. Debris was also found on the highway below, closing several lanes of the highway.
A subsequent investigation determined that despite the driver’s insistence that the accident had been caused by a sneezing fit caused by seasonal allergies, onboard video cameras revealed that she was holding a cellphone in her left hand. The video showed that the phone had skidded across the floor of the bus and that she had hurriedly recovered it before paramedics arrived on the scene. Prior to this incident, the driver had been involved in three separate crashes since 1994, and had received citations for speeding, seat belt violations, failure to stop and improper passing. The driver’s personal license had never been suspended and was in good standing, meaning that MBTA had not received notification of any of the violations. It is against MBTA regulations for any of their drivers to have a cellphone in their possession while working, and the driver, Shanna Shaw, had told police that she did not have one with her at the time of the crash.
A passenger on the bus, Jerome Higgins, indicated that he is a regular rider of the route and that he knew that the vehicle was travelling too fast.