No charges to be filed in bus fatality accident
A grand jury has decided that no charges will be filed in the fatality accident that claimed the life of a Winamac Community Middle School student.
On Friday, Feb. 8, the Marshall County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office held a press release to discuss the decision made by a grand jury to not file charges against 26-year-old Tylor Perry, of Camby.
The grand jury was summoned to decide if Perry should be charged after the accident on Dec. 5 on U.S. 31, north of Argos. A Winamac Community Middle School bus was hit on the left rear side where Owen Abbott, 13, was sitting while they were headed to Warsaw on a field trip. Abbott was killed when a Freightliner straight truck hit the bus. The bus had stopped at a set of railroad tracks, as required by law, and as it began to accelerate it was hit. Zane Bell, 14, was airlifted to Memorial Hospital in South Bend and other students sustained minor injuries.
“The loss of life in the case is tragic. There is little that we can humanly do to lessen the tragedy but to pursue justice and we have done that,” said Marshall County Prosecutor E. Nelson Chipman Jr. during the press conference.
Chipman Jr. reminded those in the audience that what is shown to the grand jurors is not available to the public. He said this case is a little different because of the intense public interest and because a majority of evidence has already been released to the public through the accident report.
Deputy prosecutor Matt Sarber was the lead prosecutor in presenting evidence to the grand jury.
According to Sarber, Perry had been traveling at a rate of about 61-62 mph with the cruise control activated. Perry did not brake until a second before the crash. The rack of the truck is what made contact with the rear of the bus. The computer evidence in the truck indicates the truck did not slow or start to slow until a moment before impact.
“This matter was presented in full to the grand jury. They deliberated on charges that are reckless in nature — could be reckless homicide, could be criminal recklessness. They were all reckless because there was no intent to cause harm,” Sarber said. “After deliberation they decided that no charges should be filed and they issued what is called a no bill.”
He said the jury was given the definition of what reckless means, according to Indiana code.
Sarber said that Perry did admit to removing an item of clothing and that he did obstruct his view for a period of time.
Sarber said there is no specific statute regarding someone taking their clothing off while driving such as with texting.
“In Indiana there is no negligent standard,” Sarber said. “We don’t have a negligent homicide in Indiana. There were other charges that were contemplated. We allowed them to deliberate on the charges that they thought were applicable.”
Sarber said there were infractions that could have been considered. The infractions are not criminal but civil in nature.
“Given the gravity of what had occurred, with Owen Abbott’s passing, we determined that charging an infraction would have seemed disingenuous. We did not hide anything from the grand jury and we would not want it to appear at all that we are hiding anything from the public.”
Sarber said the decision of the grand jury has concluded the investigation of the accident.