WEST NEW YORK, N.J. (AP) — A bus driver who hit a light pole that toppled onto a stroller, killing an infant and injuring seven other people in a chain-reaction crash, had an initial court appearance postponed Wednesday on charges including using a cellphone while operating a vehicle.
Idowu Daramola, 48, is also charged with death by auto and reckless driving in Tuesday afternoon's crash, according to the Hudson County Sheriff's Office. The Thornwood, N.Y. man's hearing was pushed back to Thursday morning.
The accident happened in West New York on a road that overlooks the Hudson River and offers a panoramic view of Manhattan. Authorities said the bus struck a lamppost, which fell onto a stroller. The bus then hit a tree, another lamppost and caromed into a parked car, which struck three other parked vehicles.
Eight-month-old Angelie Paredes was killed, and seven other people were sent to hospitals.
"I heard a loud crash and people screaming," said Iris Pizarro, who lives in an apartment building across the street. "That's when I ran to the window and saw the mother over the baby screaming, "My daughter! My baby!"
On Wednesday morning, a makeshift memorial of lit candles, teddy bears and flowers had been set up as utility crews worked to reinstall the light pole. The bus stop sits between a park and playground atop a swath of trees and shrubs running down a steep slope.
At an afternoon news conference near the Paredes family home in nearby North Bergen, family friend Julio Marenca said parents Maylin and Jiro Paredes were being supported by family, close friends and their pastor. In addressing the allegation that Daramola was on his phone at the time of the accident, he called it "a heinous, stupid act that we all do. Let's hope that out of this we all learn to stop doing it; it makes no benefit."
According to Marenca, Angelie had just learned to stand up on her own.
The vehicle was operated by Sphinx Transportation, which provides shuttle service between New Jersey and New York City. A woman working in the company's office Wednesday said the accident has been "very upsetting" to employees and management. Sara Adel said Daramola had worked for Sphinx for four or five years and had had no "major" problems. She said he was involved in an accident near the Lincoln Tunnel in which a truck struck his bus from behind.
Daramola had two outstanding warrants for picking up or discharging passengers in an unauthorized area, according to sheriff's office spokesman Mike Makarski. A spokesman for the New York state Department of Motor Vehicles said in an email that Daramola has a valid license and has no accidents or violations on his public record.
A woman waiting at the bus stop Wednesday said she frequently takes the shuttle bus if it arrives while she is waiting for a New Jersey Transit commuter bus. But she said she wasn't surprised that one of the buses was involved in an accident.
"I'm not shocked at all that it was one of these drivers," Yorvira Kavanaugh said. "They're always on their phones, always arguing with each other. Sometimes they pull up next to each other and argue about passengers.
"This was horrible," she said. "I have two babies and I'm always walking around here with them."
Attorney information for Daramola wasn't immediately available.