Truck Driver Faces 5 Homicide Charges in Bus Crash

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Truck Driver Faces 5 Homicide Charges in Bus Crash

By ROBERT IMRIE  / Associated Press Wausau Bureau

EAU CLAIRE

Michael John Kozlowski, 23, of Schererville, Ind., faces five felony counts of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle as well as 11 felony counts of reckless driving causing great bodily injury and nine misdemeanor counts of reckless driving causing injury.

Killed were Chippewa Falls band director Douglas Greenhalgh, 48; his 51-year-old wife, Therese; and their 11-year-old granddaughter, Morgan Greenhalgh. Also killed were driver Paul Rasmus, 78, and student teacher Brandon Atherton, 24, authorities said. 

Douglas Greenhalgh played in a Wausau competitive marching band decades ago and attended the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point; his wife was a graduate of Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School.

Kozlowski stayed out late partying before he took off from Indiana on the day of the crash, and drove erratically after getting into Wisconsin, eventually falling asleep, leading to the crash, prosecutors contended.

The crash occurred Oct. 16 after Kozlowski drove his semi off onto the shoulder of Interstate 94 and lost control when he pulled back onto the highway.

“Two witnesses to the defendant’s driving behavior prior to this collision provide information consistent with a conclusion that the defendant’s semi left the interstate when he fell asleep that morning,” the complaint filed by Eau Claire County District Attorney Richard White said.

The district attorney said the complaint alleges criminal negligence over two days.

“The charges reflect the injuries to every one of the people we know about on the bus who sustained injuries,” White said.

“His conduct and negligence was a significant factor in the deaths. His driving was erratic. He weaved at times. His speed was erratic.”

The complaint said information from Kozlowski’s global positioning system indicated he traveled to an Indiana tavern Oct. 14 to attend a going away party for a co-worker. Witnesses said Kozlowski was at the tavern until closing time early Oct. 15, according to the complaint.

The complaint said witnesses told investigators Kozlowski was drinking “hard stuff” at the Indiana tavern, but there is no mention in the complaint on whether he was legally drunk at the time of the accident. White declined to discuss results of any blood-alcohol test that may have been done on him.

Friends who were with Kozlowski at the tavern indicated he stayed up until at least 5 a.m. Oct. 15, the complaint said.

Kozlowski’s cell phone records show outgoing calls were made that day at 10:57 a.m., 11:20 a.m., 12:07 p.m., 3:22 p.m. and 5:04 p.m., according to the complaint.

White said no other criminal charges would be filed against anyone or the bus company in the case.

The maximum penalty for Kozlowski on each of the homicide charges is 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine, while be faces up to 3 1/2 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000 on each of the felony reckless driving counts and up to a year in jail and $2,000 fine on each misdemeanor count.

The driver has not been arrested and his attorney told prosecutors Kozlowski would voluntarily make an initial court appearance Jan. 31.

The charter bus, filled with 44 students, teachers and chaperones from Chippewa Falls High School, plowed into the semi trailer that had overturned and jackknifed on the highway, blocking both lanes, the Wisconsin State Patrol said.

The crash happened about 2 a.m. just north of Osseo as the bus returned from a band competition in Whitewater.

An investigation found possible problems with the brakes on the bus, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. A lack of skid marks on the interstate, though, may indicate the bus driver did not have time to stop, the agency said.

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