Truck driver involved in deadly Texas school bus crash arrested; confesses to drug use prior to accident, according to police

According to a report by the Austin-American Statesman, the driver of the concrete truck involved in the tragic collision with a bus full of pre-kindergarten students in Texas last week had consumed recreational drugs hours before the accident. This devastating incident resulted in the loss of one student and one driver’s life.

Around 2 p.m., a concrete truck driver veered into the lane and struck the bus carrying more than 40 pre-K students and 11 adults from Tom Green Elementary. They were on their way back to school after a field trip to the Bastrop County Zoo on March 22.

According to the Austin-American Statesman, a total of 32 individuals were transported to hospitals as a result of the incident. Numerous students and teachers reported injuries, resulting in the need for medical attention.

Ulises Rodriguez Montoya, a pre-K student at Tom Green Elementary School, and 33-year-old Ryan Wallace, a doctoral student at the University of Texas, tragically lost their lives in the devastating crash.

The Texas Department of Public Safety informed USA TODAY that Jerry Hernandez, a 42-year-old driver, was apprehended on Friday. He has been charged with criminally negligent homicide.

According to Sergeant Deon Cockrell of the Texas DPS, the suspect was apprehended today without any issues at a residence in Bastrop County. The arrest was made in relation to two warrants, one for a bond violation in Hays County and the other for the shooting incident.

This is the information that we have gathered.

Driver initially denied using drugs before the crash, admitting it later on

During the investigation, Hernandez engaged in a series of conversations with investigators. Initially, he stated that he had not consumed any “illicit substances in the week before the crash but did have a history of using marijuana and cocaine,” as reported by the Statesman.

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According to Hernandez, he veered into the path of the bus because the driver of another vehicle in front of him suddenly slammed on their brakes. Investigators noted that Hernandez declined to give a blood sample to law enforcement at the scene of the accident.

According to the Statesman, Hernandez informed investigators that he was heading home when the crash occurred. Before leaving the job site, he mentioned taking a 15-minute nap.

According to an affidavit obtained by the Statesman, he had only slept for three hours the night before the crash. He admitted to smoking marijuana around 10 p.m. and consuming a “small amount of cocaine” a couple of hours later, at 1 a.m.

According to the Statesman, Hernandez had failed two drug tests in recent years. In December 2022, he tested positive for marijuana, and in April 2023, he tested positive for cocaine. The Statesman also reported that in September 2020, an employer had requested Hernandez to undergo a drug test due to reasonable suspicion of drug use. However, he refused to take the test.

According to Bastrop District Attorney Bryan Goertz, proving impairment may be challenging, even if the driver admits to it.

According to a Texas Department of Public Safety investigator, it was suggested that Hernandez, the driver, was not impaired at the time of the incident. Instead, it was believed that he was sleepy and may have fallen asleep while driving. Goertz, in response, stated that if Hernandez had indeed dozed off while driving, then there would be nothing criminal about it, especially if there is no evidence of impairment.

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According to the affidavit, Hernandez appeared to have no knowledge of the seriousness of the accident he was involved in and did not mention colliding with a school bus.

Francisco Martinez, the owner of the FJM Concrete Pumping LLC truck, has declined to comment on the crash. He referred all inquiries to his attorney, who has not yet responded to the inquiries, according to the Statesman.

During the investigation, Martinez admitted that he had not checked Hernandez’s commercial license or his driving history with the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse before hiring him.

According to the affidavit, Mr. Martinez was not aware of Mr. Hernandez’s previous drug-related problems. However, it is stated that Mr. Hernandez should have been aware of his own status through the clearinghouse.

School releases video from school bus, community raises funds for students and teachers impacted

Video footage captured by the Statesman reveals the bus was traveling in the westbound lane of the highway, while the concrete truck was driving in the eastbound lane, just before 1:59 p.m.

According to the Statesman, the concrete truck quickly swerves into the westbound traffic lane. In a desperate attempt to avoid the collision, the bus driver maneuvers onto the shoulder of the road. However, despite these efforts, the crash becomes inevitable and the bus is struck by the oncoming truck.

A person on the bus can be heard crying out just moments before the truck collides with the group in the video.

The front camera of the bus momentarily lost sight of the concrete truck as it passed by. However, moments later, the truck collided with the bus, causing it to flip over and land on its driver’s side. The bus ended up facing the opposite direction from its original travel path, as reported by the Statesman.

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The group was on a bus that didn’t have any seatbelts either. According to Tim Savoy, a Hays school district spokesman, the bus didn’t have seatbelts because it was a 2011 model. He also mentioned that school buses made since 2017 are equipped with seatbelts.

According to the Statesman, video time stamps reveal that the entire crash unfolded in less than 10 seconds. As the incident occurred, cars driving near the bus swiftly pulled over to the side of the highway. Without hesitation, the drivers exited their vehicles and rushed towards the bus.

A person was captured on camera calling out “911,” while another individual was heard crying out, “Oh my God,” as reported by the Statesman.

In the aftermath of the accident, the Hays community has united to support the families affected by the tragedy by organizing fundraising efforts.

The Statesman reported that there are several GoFundMe fundraiser pages that have been created to support various individuals and families. Ulises, Wallace, a teacher with serious injuries, and all the families affected by the incident have their own dedicated pages.

Gov. Greg Abbott has urged Texans to join him in prayer for the victims of the crash. In a conversation with district Superintendent Eric Wright, he expressed his condolences and offered the full support of the state to assist the community in coping with this tragic event.

“I express my gratitude to the first responders and law enforcement officers who acted swiftly at the scene and are still providing assistance to their fellow Texans who suffered injuries,” stated Abbott.

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