Releasing school bus crash video serves no one (Opinion)
You know the story by now. An ill-fated field trip from Paramus to Waterloo Village. A 77 year old school bus driver who missed his turn, then entered 80 and immediately turned from the on ramp perpendicularly across all lanes heading for the median cutaway. An illegal and reckless maneuver which cut off a dump truck who had nowhere to go. The collision was so violent it broke the body of the bus off its own chassis and ejected passengers all over the highway while leaving others dangling upside down from lap belts. 10 year old Miranda Vargas died as did 51 year old Jennifer Williamson-Kennedy. There were many other serious injuries including severe head trauma.
This was all caught on a Department of Transportation surveillance camera. But the video has so far not been released. NJ101.5 and I would guess many other media outlets in covering this story are trying to change that. A request for the video by our station under the Open Public Records Act was denied by the prosecutor's office citing an "ambiguous criminal investigatory records exemption under the law" according to a story by Dan Alexander. A separate OPRA request to DOT has resulted in nothing. DOT requested two weeks before deciding whether they would release the video.
I fully understand that legally they should be released. Yet morally they should not be. Consider what you'll see in this video. There is nothing to be disputed here. Witnesses and video will tell the same story. There's no doubt what happened. And as you'll watch this terribly reckless fatal decision on the part of the elderly bus driver, you won't just see the crash and the bus being torn apart. You'll see children's bodies being thrown from the bus onto the highway and mangled. You'll see the accident that killed a 10 year old girl and a teacher. If you were the mommy or daddy, or if you were the husband, would you want their final moments as part of digital content?
Since there is no real dispute of the facts here, and this video will certainly be evidence seen by the jury in an upcoming trial for vehicular homicide charges, I can't see how the public good is going to be served in this instance. The only people to be served by this are the morbidly curious. Again, I understand legally news organizations have every right to public records and that they are trying to do their jobs. It's my moral opinion thinking of Miranda's parents and Jennifer's family that tells me this is a bad and pointless move.
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