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Ex-bus driver gets prison term in passenger’s dragging death

June 22, 2022 GMT

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A former New Jersey Transit bus driver who caused the death of a passenger who was dragged when his arm became trapped in the bus door has been sentenced to five years in state prison.

Fayola Howard, 36, of Bloomfield, was sentenced Monday, according to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. A native of Trinidad, she is expected to face deportation proceedings once she’s freed from prison.

Howard had pleaded guilty last month to reckless vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of the accident resulting in death and tampering with records by filing a report containing false information about the Dec. 31, 2019 incident in Newark.

The passenger, 55-year-old Newark resident Kevin Thomas, had stepped off the bus to return a pocketbook to a woman who had left it on the vehicle, authorities have said. When he attempted to return to the front door of the bus, Howard closed the door on his arm.

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Instead of releasing him, authorities have said Howard drove away, dragging Thomas even as he and other passengers yelled for her to stop. The bus then turned right, at which point Thomas came free and fell before the bus ran him over.

Thomas died from his injuries a week later. Howard was arrested the following month as she tried to board a plane at Newark Liberty International Airport, authorities have said.

Howard’s lawyer, Michael Robbins, said Wednesday that it was never her intent to injure Thomas.

“What started out as a good deed by Mr. Thomas unfortunately ended in tragedy,” Robbins said.