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Distracted bus driver blamed for crash that killed baby girl

<i>This post has been corrected, as indicated below.</i>

A New Jersey bus driver who smashed his bus into a lamppost, which fell to the ground and killed an 8-month-old girl in her stroller, faces criminal charges after officials say he apparently was either talking or texting on his cellphone at the time of the crash.

The city of West New York, a few miles from Manhattan, was stunned, and a memorial with candles, stuffed animals and flowers quickly sprung up at the spot where Angela Paredes died Tuesday afternoon. The bus driver, Idowu Daramola, is due in court Thursday and is expected to be charged with death by auto and reckless driving, according to the Hudson County sheriff’s department.

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Witnesses and police say Daramola, 48, was behind the wheel about 1 p.m. Tuesday when something caused him to lose control of the bus, which rolled onto the sidewalk near the bus stop where Angela was sitting in her stroller, with her mother standing alongside.

“The bus continued on the sidewalk, struck four parked cars,” Sheriff Frank Schillari told reporters at the scene. He said four people in one of those parked cars suffered minor injuries.

A city police officer, Michael Stetson, was nearby and rushed to the infant. “I saw that the baby was bleeding,” said Stetson, who began performing CPR. Angela “breathed a little bit … short breaths,” he said. But she died en route to the hospital.

The Star-Ledger of Newark reported that Daramola had been issued six traffic tickets since 2011 and had been involved in an incident his boss described as a fender-bender last year. It said the driver’s previous citations included ones for speeding and failing to observe a stop sign.

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The company he works for, Sphinx Transportation, runs buses between New York and New Jersey.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than nine people die each day in the United States in crashes blamed on distracted drivers, yet adult drivers continue to talk on their cellphones and text at an alarming rate while behind the wheel. One study showed that in 2011, 68.7% of drivers ages 18 to 64 admitted talking on their phones while driving in the previous 30 days. And 31.2% said they had read or sent a text while driving during that same time period, the CDC said.

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[For the record, 6:30 p.m. July 31: An earlier version of this post said West New York was 25 miles from Manhattan. Actually, it takes about 25 minutes to drive there. Depending on the route, the driving distance can range from 8 to 13 miles.]

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