Bus driver enters ‘not guilty’ pleas for negligent homicide

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, November 2, 2016

EDGARD — Denis Yasmir Amaya Rodriguez pleaded not guilty Oct. 25 to three counts of negligent homicide following an I-10 crash that claimed the lives of three people, including a veteran St. John the Baptist Parish fireman.



According to news reports, Rodriguez faces a status conference next week (Nov. 11) in court with a certified translator.

The New Orleans Advocate reported Rodriguez, a Honduran national, had his last court appearance delayed several hours after his attorney failed to show up and the court couldn’t locate a translator.

“Instead of postponing the hearing, attorney Matthew Whitworth stood in place of Amaya’s attorney LaShanda Webb, who was in the middle of a trial in another parish. In the absence of an official translator, the court swore in Erwin Sosa, a St. John resident who was in court for jury duty,” the Advocate reported.

Rodriguez is accused of operating a bus that careened into an Interstate 10 traffic scene Aug. 28, injuring dozens and killing three people, including District Chief Spencer Chauvin.

District Attorney Bridget Dinvaut said Oct. 25’s arrangement followed an Oct. 10 St. John the Baptist Parish grand jury indictment for Rodriguez on three counts of negligent homicide. He is also facing one count of operating a vehicle without a driver’s license, one count of reckless operation of a motor vehicle and 39 counts of negligent injuring.

Rodriguez is being held in St. John the Baptist Parish under a bond exceeding $1.7 million.

Authorities determined Rodriguez does not have a driver’s license.

Aug. 28’s deadly crash began when authorities responded to I-10 near LaPlace to a single-vehicle wreck involving a Nissan Titan that came to rest across the right lane and right shoulder at approximately 6:40 a.m. Those responding to the scene included State Police and St. John the Baptist Parish Fire Department personnel.

At approximately 7:11 a.m., State Police said, a bus driven by Rodriguez approached the crash scene at a high rate of speed before striking a fire truck, then a Toyota Camry, pushing the Camry into the rear of a Chevrolet Silverado and flatbed trailer.

The bus then veered between a trooper’s unit and the Titan before striking three firefighters standing near the guardrail, throwing each over the edge of the elevated interstate into the water below, more than 30 feet down.

Chauvin, one of the firefighters, was pronounced dead at a St. John hospital.

Jermaine Starr, 21, a rear seat passenger in the Camry was pronounced dead on the scene.

Vontarous Kelly, the Camry’s front seat passenger, died four days later.

According to news reports, Rodriguez claimed the bus’ brakes failed in some fashion, leading to the deadly wreck.

Kristina’s Transportation Party Bus out of Jefferson owns the bus involved in the wreck, and a combination of state and federal agencies are sorting out who rented it, coordinated the occupants inside and played a part in promising those riders paid jobs in Baton Rouge-area flood recovery.