NORRISTOWN, Pa. – On-board surveillance video shows a school bus driver was sleep-deprived and didn't stop before turning into a suburban Philadelphia middle school, causing an accident that killed the passenger of an oncoming car, authorities said Monday.
In the minutes leading up to the Feb. 17 crash, Frederick Poust III also had run 10 stop signs, been talking on a wireless headset and been listening to music on a speaker system, according to court papers. Poust, of Schwenksville, was charged with homicide by vehicle and 46 counts of recklessly endangering another person.
A decade ago, Poust was cited for careless driving in a 1999 accident that killed a 2-year-old girl and touched off a national debate about motorists using cell phones while driving.
Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said it was "impossible to think that someone who had taken the life of a child could be so reckless," although she noted Poust was not on a phone during last month's crash.
"He's tired, he's exhausted, he's distracted," Ferman said. "You're dealing with someone who just thinks he's master of the road."
Poust, 38, was taken into custody by state police Monday morning. Messages left for his attorney were not immediately returned, and telephone listings in his name are disconnected.
The accident, which happened in front of Perkiomen Valley Middle School West around 7:25 a.m., killed Richard Taylor, 27, of Gilbertsville. The car's driver was injured, and five students aboard the bus were shaken up.
Poust was turning left from a turn lane into the school when the crash happened; he told investigators that he had slowed down and come to a full stop before making the turn, according to an affidavit.
Before announcing the charges, Ferman said, investigators reviewed the video, which showed that Poust did not stop before turning into the school and striking the Honda Civic compact car.
The video also shows Poust rubbing his eyes and face numerous times in the hour before the crash, according to the affidavit. Poust told investigators he worked a second job at night and often napped during break times, it said.
Poust was ticketed in the 1999 crash in Hilltown Township, in neighboring Bucks County, in which toddler Morgan Lee Pena was killed. Poust told authorities following that crash that he ran a stop sign while dialing a cell phone and struck another vehicle.
The girl's parents sued Poust in civil court, reaching a confidential settlement.
Perkiomen Valley School District said it would not comment on the charges in last month's accident.
Poust's employer, Wall, N.J.-based Student Transportation of America, said it completed an extensive background check before hiring him in February 2009. The company has said it was aware he was in an accident in 1999 but criminal and vehicle records didn't provide details.
The company noted that Pennsylvania Department of Education guidelines require a detailed investigation of any driving incidents that occurred within the five years prior to employment.
The company said Poust was hired because the 1999 accident was older than that and because he had a valid commercial driver's license, had no subsequent violations, came highly recommended by his previous employer and completed safe-driver training.