HomeSafetyTruck Driver Admitted Cocaine Use Before Fatal Texas School Bus Crash

Truck Driver Admitted Cocaine Use Before Fatal Texas School Bus Crash

The driver of a concrete truck that caused a fatal school bus crash last week admitted to taking cocaine on three hours of sleep before the incident, according to court records reported by local media.

The crash, which newly released dash cam footage from Hays Consolidated Independent School District shows was caused by the concrete truck veering across the center line and colliding with right-front side of the school bus and causing the latter to roll over, occurred shortly before 2 p.m. Central time on Highway 21 in western Bastrop County.

The incident on March 22 resulted in the death of pre-kindergarten student Ulises Rodriguez Montoya. Ryan Wallace, 33, was driving another vehicle behind the school and also died in the crash. Hays CISD said he was not affiliated with the field trip.

The students and chaperones were returning from a trip to the Bastrop Zoo.

Documents obtained by CBS Austin and published on Thursday afternoon state that truck driver Jerry Hernandez was recorded on a state trooper’s body cam admitting that he smoked marijuana at 10 p.m. the previous night and then awoke at 12:30 a.m. to get ready for work. He said he then used cocaine at about 1 a.m.

Hernandez refused to provide a voluntary blood specimen. On March 22, a district judge issued a search warrant for the specimen.

Meanwhile, Hays CISD mourned Montoya’s death.

“Ulises was a child who was filled with a lot of happiness and he often shared it with others,” said Naira (Dina) Solís Shears, his pre-K bilingual teacher from Tom Green Elementary School. “He had a talent for drawing and his favorite thing to draw was dinosaurs. He could almost completely spell the word dinosaur, which demonstrates how smart he was. He always had a dinosaur drawn on all of the assignments he turned in. He liked to tell stories and shared many with his friends and family. Above all, he was a loving child.”

Ulises Rodriguez Montoya (Photo courtesy of Hays CISD)

In a statement the day after the crash, Will McManus, president of the Hays CISD Board of Trustees, thanked the adults on the school bus “who placed the care of our students above their own. We can’t imagine how frightening and traumatic this crash must have been and we know the recovery, both from physical and emotional wounds, will take time, patience, understanding, and love.”

The school bus driver, who was not named, continues to recover at home. The district on Monday added, “We will be forever indebted to her, and the other adults on the bus, who, though injured, placed the children above themselves and their own well-being.”

Hays CISD Superintendent Dr. Wright said the actions of the bus driver and the other adults saved lives.

A GoFundMe set up for the family to help with funeral had rasied over $87,000 at this report. Another GoFundMe for Tom Green Elementary had raised nearly $97,000.

Hays CISD posted a statement on its website confirming the bus was carrying 44 pre-K students from Tom Green Elementary School and 11 adults.

The Austin-Travis County EMS said 53 patients in all were evaluated. There were four critical injuries and six potentially serious injuries, with the rest being minor injuries.

School Transportation News has learned the model-year 2011 IC Bus CE Series involved in the crash was not equipped with lap/shoulder seatbelts.

Texas has required the three-point seatbelts on all new school buses since 2018. Hays CISD said it has purchased new school buses with the three-point seatbelts since 2017. A district representative confirmed for STN the school bus was not equipped with forward-facing child safety restraint systems, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends for all preschool students.

Texas like most states don’t require CSRS for pre-K students who ride school buses, though it is considered an industry best-practice.

In a statement Monday, the school district said the field trip bus is one of 15 older bus models out of a total 109 school buses in the fleet that don’t have seatbelts. All school buses will be equipped with the lap/shoulder restraints in the coming weeks, when 21 new buses enter service. The district said those buses were delivered from the manufacturer but are being outfitted with cameras and GPS equipment.

“Until we can get seatbelts on all of our buses, we don’t want parents or students to feel unsafe. With or without seatbelts, school buses are among the absolute safest vehicles on the roads, the statement added.”

Meanwhile, classes at Tom Green Elementary resumed on Tuesday. But extracurricular activities were cancelled for the rest of the week. Counseling services and excused absences are available.


Related: School Bus Driver, 3 Children Killed in Illinois School Bus Crash
Related: Ohio School Bus Fatality Prompts Latest Legislation Pushing Seatbelt Requirement
Related: NTSB Investigating Wisconsin Middle School Student Fatality at Bus Stop

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