District attorney releases statement about Athens bus driver case

Athens Bus Crash Overview from January 2019

ATHENS, TX (KLTV) - The bus driver in a fatal wreck at a railroad crossing on Jan. 25, 2019, has been indicted by a grand jury.

John Stevens, 78, of Mabank was driving a bus that was southbound on Cream Level Road as it approached the railroad crossing. The bus came to a stop, according to the investigation, but then continued across the tracks, directly in front of the westbound Union Pacific train. The bus was impacted on its left side and became lodged on the locomotive. The train and bus then traveled approximately one quarter of a mile down the track before coming to a stop at the Murchison Street crossing.

Killed in the collision was Christopher Bonilla, 13. Also Joselyne Torres, 9, was injured when she was trapped inside the bus. Bonilla was a student at Athens Middle School. Torres was a student at Central Athens Elementary.

District Attorney Mark Hall sent the following statement at 5 p.m.:

John Franklin Stevens, 78, of Mabank was charged by two separate indictments rendered by a Henderson County Grand Jury for Injury to a Child causing serious bodily injury and Manslaugter/Criminally Negligent Homicide.

The charges stem from a January 25, 2019 collision between an Athens Independent School District bus operated by Mr.Stevens while transporting two children, and a Union Pacific freight train as it passed through the city of Athens.

A 13 year old boy was killed, and a 9 year old girl was injured in the accident that occurred at approximately 4:00 p.m. on a Friday after school.

The case has been assigned to the 392nd Judicial District Court, however no date has been set for formal arraignment on the charges. Bond was set at $5,000.00 for each indictment.

District Attorney Mark Hall said that since this is a pending case, he will not comment publicly on the evidence at this time.

Although no automated arms or warning lights were in place at the Cream Level Road location, the crossing was posted with crossbuck and yield signs.

Stevens was found conscious and ambulatory at the final resting location of the bus and was transported to UT Health East Texas in Athens for non-life threatening injuries. He was treated and later released from the hospital.

No one on the train was injured.

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