Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Former Port Authority Drivers on Trial, Accused of Racing Buses

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Former Port Authority Drivers on Trial, Accused of Racing Buses

Article excerpt

Prosecutors say a September 2014 bus accident on Interstate 279 occurred when two bus drivers were jockeying for position during a race and their vehicles collided, causing one bus to swerve out of control, through a guard rail and down a hill, where it landed on its side on Evergreen Road.

Drivers Juliann Maier, 47, of Ross and Thomas Frauens, 57, of Brookline face multiple charges including reckless endangerment and reckless driving in the non-jury trial that began Monday before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Manning. Mr. Frauens faces additional charges for not reporting the accident.

But defense attorneys paint a very different picture.

Joel Sansone, who represents Ms. Maier, said in his opening statement that he will present experts who will testify her bus was in such bad condition - including having brakes that were installed incorrectly - that it wouldn't have passed inspection.

Bruce Carsia, representing Mr. Frauens, said his client was unaware the buses had collided and left the scene to begin his route only after he saw others approaching the crash and heard sirens from emergency vehicles coming to the scene. He later responded to a Port Authority radio call for anyone who had seen the accident by telephoning a road supervisor and told him he wasn't involved but had seen the crash.

In his opening, Assistant District Attorney Brian Catanzarite said testimony will show that shortly after the buses left the Ross garage and were traveling side by side, Mr. Frauens made a "whipping motion" at his colleague to indicate he was going faster and later waved at her to encourage her to catch up to him.

As a result of the crash, Ms. Maier had multiple injuries, including a broken pelvis and four broken ribs. Mr. Sansone said she will testify about her safe driving record, the condition of the bus and her unsuccessful attempt to bring it under control.

"Nobody in their right mind plays tag with a bus," Mr. Sansone said in his opening. "She was trying to control a bus that was out of control [due to mechanical problems]."

He claims that six months earlier another driver using the same bus went on worker's compensation after she was injured trying to bring the bus back under control in another incident. …

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