Man Behind TX School Bus Crash Failed Multiple Drug Tests

Deadly crash In Bastrop County and Jerry Hernandez | Images by CBS Austin/Hays County

More information has come to light about a deadly crash between a cement truck and a school bus in Bastrop County last month, suggesting that drug use may have played a considerable role.

Jerry Hernandez purportedly told investigators that he had smoked marijuana, used cocaine, and slept for only three hours the night before he accidentally swerved the concrete pumper truck he was driving into a school bus on State Highway 21 near Mustang Ridge on March 22, per KVUE.

A 5-year-old boy named Ulises Rodriguez Montoya — a pre-K student at Tom Green Elementary School in Buda — died when the school bus flipped. Ryan Wallace, a 33-year-old Ph.D. student at the University of Texas at Austin, was also killed after driving his Dodge Charger into the back of the school bus during the accident. Dozens of other students inside the bus were injured.

Hernandez, 42, was arrested on charges of criminally negligent homicide and was declared to be an imminent hazard to public safety by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. However, his commercial driver’s license remains eligible in Texas due to status downgrades not being scheduled until this November.

Documents obtained by KVUE suggest that Hernandez’s employer, FJM Concrete LLC, failed to perform a background check before hiring him and ignored his positive drug tests on three separate occasions. Most recently, Hernandez tested positive for cocaine in April 2023, which should have led FJM Concrete to bar him from driving its trucks.

“He should never have been allowed to operate the pumper truck. He was prohibited from driving the pumper truck, and his employer failed to verify his status,” said Joe Michels, a logistics and supply chain expert and the managing principal of Solomon Bruce Consulting, per KVUE.

Michels explained that the shortage of qualified drivers in the commercial and long-haul transportation industry has contributed to this issue, with employers often failing to verify credentials and backgrounds upon hiring new employees.

“We need more people to enter the trucking industry that are safe, careful drivers,” he added.

Francisco Martinez, the owner of FJM Concrete, has yet to comment publicly on the incident but reportedly told investigators that he had been unaware of Hernandez’s positive drug tests, per an affidavit obtained by KVUE.

Hernandez also has a criminal history, with an outstanding warrant for allegedly violating bond from an assault family violence charge from January out of Hays County also being served during his recent arrest. Jail records show that he was arrested for assault last August and then again in November for “criminal mischief.”

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, assault offenses have been especially prevalent in Dallas amid an ongoing officer shortage and relatively low spending on public safety by City officials. Most assault victims in the city have been black or Hispanic.

Fundraisers have been set up for Montoya’s family as well as the other victims of the crash.

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