Federal, state, and local legislators have pledged stronger oversight of the bus and jitney transportation industry – and greater cooperation between each other – to avoid another accident like the one that killed 8-month-old Angelie Paredes of North Bergen.
A press conference regarding the issue was held Tuesday, Aug. 6, at 56th Street and Boulevard East in West New York, the site of the July 30 crash in which a bus toppled a light pole which landed on the baby’s stroller. The driver, Idowu Daramola of Queens, N.Y., has been charged with using a cell phone while driving, and other offenses. The bus was part of the Sphinx company, based in New York.
U.S. Representative Albio Sires (D-West New York), State Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-32), State Assembly Members Vincent Prieto (D-32), Charles Mainor (D-31) and Angelica Jimenez (D-32), West New York Mayor Felix Roque, Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, Guttenberg Mayor Gerald Drasheff, Freeholder Junior Maldonado, and Hudson County Sheriff Frank Schillari were among those who attended.
The legislators said that tougher regulations for drivers and bus companies, greater monitoring of them, increased police enforcement, and help from the public in identifying bad drivers were all needed.
Sacco said problems with the jitneys and other small-time bus services have existed since the 1980s.
“A program of pulling vans off the road and inspecting them had found things that were absolutely grotesque,” he said, including a lack of, or expired, licenses, no insurance coverage, and unmaintained vehicles.
Before and after the conference, other county mayors made the same observation.
“A program of pulling vans off the road and inspecting them had found things that were absolutely grotesque.” – State Sen. Nicholas Sacco
“We have this problem all over the county,” said Turner after the event. “We have to combine with others to see what we can do under state law.”
Several local news articles over the years have noted that surprise inspections of the jitneys – which are usually less expensive for local commuters than the NJ Transit buses traveling between Hudson County and New York City – have often found violations.
Turner said that U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and Sires were working at the federal level on the issue, and Sacco, Jimenez and the other state legislators were working in Trenton on it.
“You have a multi-jurisdiction, so it has to be a combined approach,” Turner said.
“I was mayor of this town for 12 years, and we had issues with these things,” said Sires during the press conference. He called for better coordination between local, state and federal bodies to thwart the problem. “We have a meeting with the federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to see what we can do here.”
Angelie’s family, who live in North Bergen, laid her to rest at a North Bergen funeral home on Monday. The service was attended by several hundred relatives, friends, and neighbors.
The baby’s father, Jairo Paredes, was a Rutgers graduate and avid photographer who had posted photos of a happy Angelie on his Instagram site just the day before the accident. The baby’s mother, Maylin Hago Paredes, was pushing her in the stroller along Boulevard East two weeks ago when the pole suddenly came crashing down.
Schillari urged the public to get involved by communicating with his office, either by calling its tipline, (201) 332-HCSO (4276), or emailing its website, www.hudsoncountysheriff.org, to report problem bus drivers.
West New York doctor Jorge Verea, and his wife, Lourdes, attended the press conference. Their daughter, Rebeka, was killed on June 20, 2005 shortly after her high school graduation when she was a passenger in a car that got into a crash. It did not involve a jitney. Nonetheless, the couple said that each accident that takes a young life brings back memories of their daughter and their loss.
“Every time this happens, it touches home,” said Jorge.
“We are trying to help the family with the pain,” said Lourdes.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.