The autopsy finally is in, but the report contains no evidence of a heart attack or any other medical episode that would have caused Roy Newman to drive erratically and crash a Muscogee County School District bus into a tree Aug. 22, killing him and injuring the seven students on board.
“It doesn’t give an explanation,” Muscogee County deputy coroner Freeman Worley told the Ledger-Enquirer on Tuesday.
The only contributing factor mentioned in the autopsy report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s lab in Decatur is that Newman had atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, a hardening and narrowing of the arteries.
“It did not say that he passed out or anything like that,” Worley said. “It’s a mystery why he would be driving around like that, but the autopsy is pretty cut and dried.”
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The cause of death – blunt-force trauma to the head, torso and extremities – was released two days after the accident. But combined with Muscogee County coroner Buddy Bryan’s statement in November, when he told the Ledger-Enquirer that tests found “no drugs or alcohol in his system whatsoever,” the question remains: What caused the single-vehicle accident on two-lane Garrett Road in clear and dry conditions?
The Columbus Police Department continues to investigate the crash, Lt. Clyde Dent told the Ledger-Enquirer on Tuesday. Asked what is keeping the investigation from being completed five months after the crash, Dent said, “There are certain things we have to wait on, some things we can’t talk about,” he said. “There are a lot of technical aspects to a crash, especially involving a school bus.”
Six of the Mathews Elementary School students were treated for undisclosed injuries and released from Midtown Medical Center. The seventh student, also of Mathews, was airlifted to an Atlanta hospital. Her condition hasn’t been available.
Eyewitnesses told the Ledger-Enquirer that Newman, 67, drove the bus so erratically and so dangerously that morning, it knocked over a mailbox and nearly collided head-on into a car before the wreck.
Newman started working for the school district in 2013 as a bus driver trainee and became a full-time driver in March 2014, MCSD communications director Valerie Fuller has said.
According to his MCSD personnel file, Newman signed a July 29, 2016, document attesting to his annual physical examination and declaring his health information “to the best of my knowledge is accurately recorded with no pertinent medical data omitted.”
The document states, “At a minimum, the applicant shall have no mental, nervous, organic or functional disease or condition that would interfere with safe driving.”
Dr. Byron Watson is the physician who signed Newman’s form the same day and wrote “no abnormalities” on the comments line.
MCSD officials weren’t reached Tuesday to comment about this investigation.