Driver tells Philly police he didn’t realize bus hit pedestrian, killing him

It could be at least another two months before Philadelphia police wrap up their investigation into Tuesday’s fatal hit-and-run accident near the Roundhouse.

 Police have identified the victim as 46-year-old Joseph Heard, who was on his way to a kidney dialysis center in Northern Liberties at the time of the crash.

Tour bus driver, 66-year-old Walter Jefferson, was tooling toward Washington, D.C., with 19 passengers before striking and running over Heard.

Jefferson has told police that he was unaware he had hit Heard with the passenger side of the white bus he was driving for Yep Tours, a Massachusetts-based company.

Police and experts say that’s possible. Buses like the one in Tuesday’s accident can absorb an impact better than your average car.

“They’re designed that way. They last a lot longer, and they’re safer because of that. It’s steel frame all around you,” said Victor Parra, president of the United Motorcoach Association.

For now, it’s unclear if Jefferson will be criminally charged.

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Capt. John Wilczynski with the Accident Investigation District said camera footage of the accident shows that Jefferson wasn’t speeding. He also said that there wasn’t enough probable cause to test his blood for drugs and alcohol.

Jefferson may, however, be open to a civil suit.

“The fact that the driver indicated he wasn’t aware he had hit somebody by itself does not bring it to the level of gross negligence,” said accident lawyer Dean Weitzman. “It’s not uncommon for operators of large motor vehicles to not know that they hit an individual. If they caught the individual on the corner of the bus or the side of the bus, it’s possible.”

Heard, host of a weekly science radio show, was three-quarters of the way across Franklin Street when he was hit by Jefferson’s bus.

Wilczynski said there were no witnesses, including, to his knowledge, any of the bus passengers, though each one of them will be interviewed by police in the coming weeks.

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