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Illinois driver blamed for fatal church bus crash

A bus driver transporting passengers to a Midwestern youth church conference told crash investigators he fell asleep while driving. The bus crashed into a pair of trees, rolled over and caught fire, killing a 6-year-old child. The 53-year-old man, who WISH-TV reported was an Illinois resident, is now charged with reckless homicide and driving while suspended.

The driver, jailed on $30,000 bond, was one of nearly a dozen people injured in the single-vehicle bus accident. He suffered a broken arm and jaw. Media sources had conflicting reports about the number of victims and included no information about the identities, ages and medical conditions of the other injured bus occupants.

The fatal accident occurred on Interstate 70 during the last week of July. During a court appearance, the defendant claimed the bus, traveling with several other vehicles to the religious event, had multiple mechanical problems. The driver indicated he lost control of the vehicle after the bus tires blew.

Authorities said the man was driving with an invalid Illinois license for nearly 10 years and was not licensed to drive in Indiana, where the accident took place. At the time of the crash, a warrant was out for the defendant's arrest for failing to show up in traffic court. Police also stated the bus wasn't registered properly with federal officials to transport passengers out of state.

Federal regulators require the registration of interstate motor carriers. However, private carriers transporting passengers for non-business purposes are not subject to the same strict rules as commercial trucks and buses with fare-paying passengers. For instance, non-business carriers must be driven by licensed drivers but operators aren't required to disclose violations.

Negligent drivers may face civil charges as well as criminal charges following an injury crash or fatal auto accident. Compensation from personal injury and wrongful death claims helps victims and families recover financially from preventable tragedies.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Church bus driver appears in court; remains in jail," Michelle L. Quinn, Post-Tribune, Aug. 04, 2015

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