A truck driver accused of driving a semi into a bus filled with middle schoolers has been charged with 10 felony counts of injury by intoxicated use of a vehicle and second-degree reckless injury.
Wayne Edward Murphy, 42, of Indianapolis, was charged with five counts of each charge when the Columbia County District Attorney’s Office filed a formal criminal complaint Wednesday. Murphy made his initial court appearance June 1 and has remained in custody on a $35,000 cash bond.
According to the complaint, at 10:09 a.m. May 23, the Wisconsin State Patrol received a report from Dahl Trucking of one of its vehicles heading north on Interstate 39, allegedly veering in and out of its lane. Dahl Trucking had received complaints from other drivers who called a phone number on the back of the truck Murphy was driving to report the matter.
At 10:16 a.m., the State Patrol reported a crash involving a semi-truck and a school bus at milepost 123 in the town of Arlington.
The truck had struck a school bus carrying students from a Milwaukee-area private school en route to Wisconsin Dells when the driver pulled over to the side of the road due to mechanical issues. At the time, 33 passengers were in the bus, mostly middle school students.
At the scene, 26 people were injured, including five with critical injuries.
State troopers located Murphy at the scene, who said that his truck veered right and that he was unable to avoid the bus when he tried to swerve left. He was unable to explain why that happened. He told the officers he was headed for Regina, Canada, and left South Beloit, Illinois, at 8 a.m. after 10 hours of sleep.
During a search of the vehicle, officers found prescription pill bottles for alprazolam, or Xanax, with prescriptions filled on Feb. 6, April 10 and May 14. If taken as prescribed, according to the complaint, Murphy would have taken at most roughly four per day.
After counting the remaining pills in the most recent prescription, officers suspected Murphy had been taking about twice the prescribed amount.
That afternoon, a state trooper reported going to University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison, where she spoke to parents of the children who had been in the accident. Many suffered a range of injuries from scrapes and bruises to multiple broken bones and other serious injuries.
One 14-year-old boy taken from the scene by MedFlight suffered spinal swelling and a mild traumatic brain injury.
A girl who turned 12 Wednesday was brought into the hospital unconscious, received a blood transfusion, and then was placed on a ventilator.
If convicted, Murphy effectively faces a potential life sentence, with each criminal count carrying a maximum 12½-year prison sentence. He is scheduled to appear in court Thursday morning for a preliminary hearing.