AUSTIN (KXAN) — A Capital Metro bus driver was arrested and charged after a fatal crash in January left a bicyclist dead on the University of Texas at Austin campus, according to a press release from University Police and the Travis County District Attorney’s Office Wednesday.
The fatal crash took place late Jan. 28 on San Jacinto Boulevard, just south of 23rd Street. The victim, identified as 39-year-old Austinite Anthony John Diaz, was pronounced dead at the scene.
The bus driver, 40-year-old Mindi Taylor Stafford was arrested in Bell County and charged with felony manslaughter Tuesday.
CapMetro service provider Travis Transit issued a statement Wednesday after news broke of Stafford’s arrest:
“We are aware of the University of Texas at Austin Police Department’s proceedings today. The person identified is no longer employed at Travis Transit.”
CapMetro also issued a statement:
“Capital Metro was made aware of the arrest and continues to cooperate with law enforcement in their investigation of the January 28 crash. Our thoughts remain with the family and loved ones of Tony Diaz.”
Police say Diaz was traveling along diagonal parking spaces close to the curb. According to the affidavit, Diaz was wearing a reflective helmet and had lights affixed to his bike’s handlebars and seat. Police also say the roadway was well lit and there were no designated bus stops in the area.
Stafford remained at the scene after the crash and cooperated with investigators. She also took drug and alcohol tests as part of investigations.
Witnesses and passengers on the bus told KXAN she was behaving strangely and talking to herself moments before the crash.
“I was coming through UT campus and cars were parked on both sides. I had just passed another ten bus, I was trying not to hit him and the car behind him,” Stafford told investigators according to the arrest affidavit. “I remember when I saw him look back, but he did not try to move and I tried to stop the bus.”
UT Police Chief David Carter says after reviewing both UT security camera footage and cameras in from the interior and exterior of the bus, detectives found that there were no cars parked in the diagonal spots near where Diaz was hit. Carter also says there were no other vehicles in the area at the time of the crash.
Carter says security footage also showed that Stafford’s brake lights didn’t come on until after the bus hit Diaz.
The police chief says 11 people were riding the bus at the time of the crash, and it’s clear that they saw Diaz before Stafford hit him.
Investigators have interviewed some of the bus riders, and according to the affidavit, passengers could also be heard on a video recording inside the bus, shouting for the driver to, “Stop the bus!”
“The one thing that was very, very clear is that the people on that bus were undoubtedly traumatized by when you saw this tragic event unfold,” Carter said.
Detectives also say they found a backpack that belonged to Stafford on the bus. The bag contained several medications, some of which have side effects causing drowsiness, confusion, dizziness and blurred vision.
During the investigation, it was discovered via bus camera footage that the driver had been using her cell phone frequently. According to the warrant, it appeared she was texting with at least one person at the scene when she was not talking with the investigating officers. The footage also showed the bus drift towards the curb where it struck Diaz and pulled him under.
UTPD says the bus itself has undergone a review and was not found to have any mechanical issues.
Carter says the footage that aided in the investigation won’t be released until Stafford’s trial, because it’s evidence in the case.