Bus driver involved in fatal had multiple accidents

November 24, 2008 4:19:09 PM PST
Eyewitness News has learned more about the Chapel Hill bus driver who was involved in a fatal pedestrian accident.

James Orr is charged in the death of a UNC Hospitals worker and records show it was the first of many crashes for Orr.

Co-workers remember 33-year-old Valerie Hughes as a person who took extra time with patients.

Last month, the X-ray technician was headed home after work at UNC Hospitals when a Chape Hill Transit bus hit he at a busy intersection.

"I was just kind of in shock," co-worker Eve Pedersen said. "I received a call that Valerie was in the emergency room trying to get a hold of her family. There were tons of emotions going through my mind at the time."

Family and friends still wrestle with her tragic death and are wrestling with new information about the bus driver.

A review of Orr's driving record shows eight accident while he was on the job and two in his personal vehicle. He was never charged.

But, from sideswiping a utility pole from rear-ending at least two vehicles, the 65-year-old could have been fired, according to the transit department's policy.

City officials declined to comment about the fatal accident, but a spokesperson told Eyewitness News, "Chapel Hill Transit regularly reviews the driving performance of all transit operators to ensure that safety procedures are being followed. Preventable accidents are unacceptable and may lead to corrective or disciplinary actions, including immediate termination."

Orr was fired and charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle shortly after the accident that killed Hughes.

It is the second fatal pedestrian-bus accident in recent months, forcing the town to bring in a consultant to review its safety standards. That efforts is of little comfort to Hughes's co-workers and friends.

"I just want people to remember Valerie as a caring person," Pedersen said. "She really was a caring person and that's what this is all about -- taking time out to remember her."

Hughes's family has hired an attorney but declined to comment on a possible lawsuit.


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