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Driver of bus that struck overpass to face charges

Allston accident injured dozens of youths from Pa.

Dozens of youths who were visiting Harvard University were injured Feb. 2 when a bus slammed into the Western Avenue overpass on Soldiers Field Road.

MATTHEW J. LEE/GLOBE STAFF

Dozens of youths who were visiting Harvard University were injured Feb. 2 when a bus slammed into the Western Avenue overpass on Soldiers Field Road.

The driver of a charter bus that struck an overpass on ­Soldiers Field Road in Allston in February will face a criminal charge stemming from the crash, which injured dozens of Pennsylvania youths and chaperones who were heading home after visiting Harvard University.

Samuel J. Jackson, 67, of Philadelphia, is being charged with operating negligently to endanger and two civil infractions, State Police said Tuesday. A date for his arraignment in Brighton District Court has not been set.

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Jackson could not be reached for comment. It was not known on Tuesday if he has hired a lawyer.

Thirty-five passengers were injured in the crash on the night of Feb. 2, and many were sent to local hospitals where they were treated and released.

Most of the injuries were ­minor, but four passengers were seriously hurt, including one youth identified in news ­reports after the accident as Matthew Cruz, 16, who suffered life-threatening injuries.

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David Procopio, a State ­Police spokesman, said Tuesday that all the injured passengers including Cruz have returned to Pennsylvania. Procopio had no information on their condition.

Attempts to reach Cruz’s family and relatives of other ­injured passengers were not successful on Tuesday.

Jackson failed to heed warning signs prohibiting buses from that stretch of Soldiers Field Road before he tried to enter the tunnel under the Western Avenue Bridge, which has a posted 10-foot height ­limit, according to State Police. The bus was too tall for the ­tunnel.

“The investigation determined that the bus did not slow down as it entered the tunnel, causing significant damage to the roof on the front portion of the bus and the portions of the frame that held up the roof,” the State Police statement said.

Jackson was driving for Philadelphia-­based Calvary Coach at the time of the crash.

Raymond Talmadge, the company’s owner, did not ­return calls seeking comment on Tuesday.

He told the Globe on the night of the accident that ­Jackson is a “very, very good driver” and later told a Philadelphia television station that Jackson informed him that he was checking his GPS shortly before the crash.

Procopio declined to comment on Talmadge’s statement about the GPS.

The passengers had visited Harvard on a trip organized by Destined for a Dream Foundation Inc., nonprofit organization based in Bristol, Pa., that serves disadvantaged youth. The organization’s chief executive officer, Erica Waller-Hill, could not be reached on Tuesday.

The Cruz family has sued Calvary Coach and Jackson in state court in Philadelphia, accord­ing to local media reports.

Two weeks after the accident, a lawyer for the family told the Bucks County Courier Times that Cruz had suffered severe injuries to his head and neck that will probably “haunt him for years to come.”

“He cannot voluntarily move his legs and has only very minor reflex movement,” the lawyer, Jim Ronca of Philadelphia, told the newspaper at the time.

Ronca did not respond to messages seeking comment on Tuesday.

In addition to the criminal charge, Jackson is also facing civil violations of failing to obey a sign on a state Department of Conservation and Recreation roadway and operating a bus on a DCR roadway, State Police said.

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.
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