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Metro

MBTA driver pleads not guilty in Newton bus crash

NEWTON — The MBTA driver implicated in a crash that left a bus dangling over the Massachusetts Turnpike pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Newton District Court to a charge of obstruction of justice.

Shanna Shaw, 43, was driving a Route 57 bus May 18 when it smashed through a guardrail on the Washington Street overpass, leaving the bus hanging over the highway.

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After a brief hearing in court Tuesday, Shaw was released on her own recognizance. Shaw’s license was suspended last week at the request of the MBTA Transit Police.

Judge Dyanne J. Klein reiterated that Shaw is not allowed to drive unless officials at the Registry of Motor Vehicles choose to reinstate her license.

Shaw has also been cited by MBTA Transit Police for speeding, operating to endanger, and impeded operation. The citations will be addressed at her next court appearance on June 24.

Shaw and her attorney, Gerald F. Malone, declined to comment after the hearing.

An MBTA employee since 1996, Shaw had originally claimed that she suffered from a severe case of seasonal allergies that had caused her to sneeze continuously and lose sight of the road, police said in an affidavit last week.

But police said that footage from an internal surveillance camera on the bus showed that Shaw was holding what appeared to be a cellphone in her left hand in the moments leading up to the crash.

Police said the camera showed the cellphone flying from Shaw’s hands as the bus made impact with the guardrail, then landing on the floor of the bus. A passenger kicked the phone while staggering off the bus; Shaw, too, got off the bus, then got back on in order to retrieve the phone, police said.

“She said although she was manipulating the phone, she was not using the phone for calls or text messaging,” police stated in the court filing.

Under MBTA rules, train and bus operators are not allowed to have a cellphone in their possession while on the job.

She has been suspended without pay, MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said last week.

The video from the surveillance camera also showed that Shaw had another item in her right hand while driving, though it was unclear what the item was, police said.

The driver and seven passengers were hospitalized with various injuries, none of which were deemed life-threatening. One passenger, 64-year-old Jerome Higgins, said he did not notice Shaw sneezing as she drove the bus.

The office of Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan has requested a copy of Shaw’s medical records from the day of the accident, when she received treatment at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton.

“The motion is made in good faith and is not intended as a general fishing expedition,” an assistant district attorney wrote in the summons that was filed Tuesday. “The defendant reported sneezing due to allergies. She also reported sneezing immediately prior to the motor vehicle crash.”

According to Registry records, Shaw was involved in a crash in her personal vehicle in Dorchester in April and was found more than 50 percent at fault. She was also found at fault in crashes in 2003 and 1994.

Between 1994 and 2008, Shaw incurred citations for speeding, failure to stop, and improper passing and two seat-belt violations.

Related coverage:

Photos: Bus crash in Newton Corner

RMV revokes license of MBTA driver in bus crash

T driver in Newton crash had phone in hand, report says

MBTA driver’s cellphone at issue in Newton bus accident

Jacqueline Tempera can be reached at jacqueline.tempera
@globe.com
. Follow her on Twitter @jacktemp.
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