Former NJ Transit bus driver sentenced to five years for vehicular homicide

Fayola Howard

NEWARK, NJ — Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens II announced June 21 that Fayola Howard, 36, of Bloomfield, a former NJ Transit bus operator, was sentenced to five years in New Jersey State Prison for causing the death of a passenger, Kevin Thomas, 55, of Newark. Superior Court Judge Ronald D. Wigler imposed the sentence on June 20. Under the No Early Release Act, Howard must serve 85 percent of her sentence before she is eligible for parole.

On May 6, Howard entered a guilty plea, admitting she caused the death of Thomas on Dec. 31, 2019, while operating an NJ Transit bus. Thomas stepped off the bus to give a pocketbook to a woman who had left her pocketbook on the bus. When he attempted to return to the front door of the bus, Howard closed the door on Thomas’s arm. While Thomas’ arm was still caught, Howard pulled away from the stop, dragging Thomas while he and other passengers yelled for her to stop the bus. The bus then turned right, at which point Thomas came free from the bus; he fell and the bus ran him over.

Thomas died from his injuries on Jan. 6, 2020. At the time of the incident, the bus was near the intersection of Sanford Avenue and Mt. Vernon Place in Newark.

Howard was convicted of reckless vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of the accident resulting in death and tampering with records. At the time of her arrest on Feb. 18, 2020, she was attempting to board a plane at Newark Airport. She is a native of Trinidad and is expected to face deportation proceedings following completion of her sentence.

“Mr. Thomas was a kind and generous man who died acting as a good Samaritan trying to help a stranger,” Assistant Prosecutor Adam B. Wells, who handled the case, said. “The defendant’s crimes robbed his family and community of a loving brother, father and grandfather. While the vehicular homicide statute limits the sentence in these cases, I hope this sentence can bring the family some sense of justice.’’

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