Testimony begins in fatal I-10 bus crash case

Testimony begins in fatal I-10 bus crash case
Updated: Jan. 9, 2018 at 7:30 PM CST
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ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Witness testimony got underway in the trial of the man accused of killing three people in a LaPlace bus crash.

It took most of Tuesday to pick the jury to hear the case against Denis Amaya-Rodriguez.

All six jurors have been selected for the trial. Defense Attorney Shannon Battiste said because of the type of crime, it doesn't involve mandatory prison time so they only need six jurors and all have to concur for a verdict.

Defendant Amaya-Rodriguez needs a translator to understand the court proceedings about him. He's accused of killing three people, including a St. John fire chief, when the bus Amaya-Rodriguez was driving crashed into another accident scene.

It happened on the morning of Aug. 28, 2016. Police say emergency crews had responded to a minor injury crash on an elevated portion of I-10 West in LaPlace, when a private rental bus crashed into a fire truck and a Toyota Camry. Three firefighters were sent over the edge of the bridge and into the water below. Chief Spencer Chauvin died.

Amaya-Rodriguez is charged with three counts of negligent homicide, numerous counts of negligent injury, reckless operation and driving without a license.

Battiste said the bus was inoperable and should not have been driven that day.

Amaya-Rodriguez claims the brakes on the bus failed, but after investigating, State Police say they were working.

"If you look at the complete report they were not even able to test the back brakes to see how effective they were because the vehicle was damaged so badly. But if someone would have contacted Mr. Christian Lombardo, maybe we could've gotten some maintenance or service records or maybe he could be here to testify what conditions the brakes were in," Defense Attorney Shannon Battiste said.

A witness at the scene said she saw people in the water sounding frantic and screaming for help.

When cross examined, she said she recalls the black bus rushing and never slowing down. She didn't see brake lights either.

Testimonies will continue Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.

Amaya-Rodriguez appeared solemn in court.

Police say Amaya-Rodriquez is an illegal immigrant from Honduras who does not have a driver's license.

The wife and parents of Chauvin sat in the front row and said this process has been difficult for them since they have to relive the tragedy.

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