Bond set for man accused in deadly Clark County school bus crash

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

SPRINGFIELD — The man accused of vehicular homicide in the death of a Northwestern Elementary School student in a bus crash that also injured dozens of other students appeared in Clark County Municipal Court for the first time on Thursday.

Hermanio Joseph, 35, pleaded not guilty, and a judge set his bond at $100,000 cash or surety. Assistant Clark County prosecutor Greg Morris said the case will go in front of the grand jury, where Joseph may face additional charges.

Joseph faces a fourth-degree felony vehicular homicide charge for negligently causing a death while operating a motor vehicle, according to court records.

“We’re 24 hours into this, so we’re trying to gather all the information we can, and (Ohio State) Highway Patrol is certainly trying to analyze any of that, all that information,” Morris said.

Joseph was appointed a public defender during the hearing, and he communicated through Sony Auguste, a Haitian Creole interpreter who works in the health care field.

His bond was set at $100,000 due to the “possibility of a flight risk,” Morris said. If he posts bond, he will not be allowed to leave the county and will be required to wear a GPS monitoring device.

Investigators said Joseph was driving a 2010 Honda Odyssey at about 8:15 a.m. Tuesday in the 4100 block of Troy Road (Ohio 41) at Lawrenceville when his minivan went left of the center line into the path of an oncoming school bus with 52 students and the driver aboard.

The bus driver attempted to avoid the Honda by driving onto the shoulder, but the bus still collided with the minivan. The bus and van went off the side of the road, with the bus rolling over. One child was ejected and died on the scene, and another suffered life-threatening injuries. Dozens more children were injured and taken to area medical centers for treatment.

Joseph faces six to 12 months in prison and/or a $5,000 fine, according to court documents.

Morris said Joseph did not appear to show signs of being impaired, but that is still being investigated.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

He presented to law enforcement a driver’s license from Mexico, which was invalid due to his immigration status, which Morris said also is under investigation. He had an Ohio identification card.

“The crash was a result of (Joseph) driving left of center, striking the school bus, forcing it off the roadway, down an embankment where it overturned and came to final rest,” a court document stated.

Joseph was taken into custody at the Clark County Jail on Wednesday afternoon.

Morris said that Joseph is registered as a Haitian immigrant in the state of Florida. Joseph said that he has lived in Clark County for about a year and has family in the area.

Joseph and his passenger in the minivan were taken to the hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening.

Charges are not anticipated for anyone other than Joseph, Morris said.

Aiden Clark was the child who died in the crash. The Ohio State Highway Patrol has not provided an update on the student with serious injuries.

Northwestern Local Schools canceled classes and events Wednesday and Thursday had grief counselors available.

The investigation is ongoing and is being handled by OSHP.

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