Minivan driver in fatal Clark County school bus crash sentenced to prison

Hermanio Joseph’s vehicle struck a Northwestern elementary bus that overturned on the first day of school.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

The driver of a minivan that went across the center line and struck a Northwestern Elementary School bus, killing one student and injuring dozens, was sentenced to a prison term of nine to 13.5 years.

Spectators packed the Clark County Common Pleas courtroom on Tuesday morning for the sentencing of Hermanio Joseph, 36, a Haitian immigrant who did not have a valid driver’s license.

Aiden Clark, 11, died in the crash and about two dozen other students were injured on the bus that had 52 children aboard.

Judge Douglas Rastatter sentenced Joseph to an indefinite term of nine to 13.5 years in prison with two to five years of post-release control after serving the time. The presumption is Joseph will serve nine years, but it will be revisited based on behavior and other factors.

Joseph, through an interpreter, issued a statement in which he apologized.

Aiden Clark’s brother, sister and father were among those who also addressed the court about his death.

Credit: Littleton & Rue Funeral Home

Credit: Littleton & Rue Funeral Home

EARLIER: A Clark County judge today will sentence the minivan driver who earlier this month was found guilty of hitting a school bus while driving without a valid license, killing one student and injuring dozens others.

Hermanio Joseph, 36, was convicted May 1 of first-degree felony involuntary manslaughter and fourth-degree felony vehicular homicide. He is scheduled to be sentenced by Clark County Common Pleas Court Judge Douglas Rastatter at 10 am.

Joseph, a Haitian immigrant, could spend six to 12 months in jail for the vehicular homicide charge and anywhere from three to 16.5 years in prison for the involuntary manslaughter charge.

The charges came after an Aug. 22 crash involving Joseph’s eastbound 2010 Honda Odyssey that went left of center on state Route 41, striking a Northwestern school bus. One student, Aiden Clark, 11, died after he was ejected from the emergency hatch of the bus and was pinned when it overturned.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

It was the first day of school for Northwestern Elementary School students, and 52 elementary school students and a driver were aboard the bus.

According to testimony from crash reconstruction expert Ohio State Highway Patrol Sgt. Jeremiah Smith, as the Honda crossed into the lane of the bus, Northwestern driver Alfred “Gene” Collier, moved the bus to the shoulder on the asphalt. The Honda continued to cross over and struck the side of the bus, then it traveled south across the roadway, coming to rest in a field.

The bus, which the driver “put a lot of input into” trying to get away from the minivan, sustained damage to the back axle, Smith said. It went down an embankment, turned, then flipped on its top.

During the trial, Joseph testified through an interpreter that he has a Mexican driver’s license and Ohio ID card, but no Ohio driver’s license.

A prosecution witness, Sydney King, Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles policy advisor, testified Tuesday that Joseph did not have an Ohio driver’s license, but he did have a state identification card. She said an Ohio ID requires a person to establish residency in the state.

Joseph testified he has temporary protected status and did not get an Ohio driver’s license because he did not have the necessary documents.

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