Driver pleads not guilty in fatal crash

| 2/27/2006

Michael John Kozlowski, the driver of a truck involved in a fatal crash with a school bus in October 2005 has pleaded not guilty.

The Associated Press reported Friday, Feb. 24, prosecutors added five counts of felony reckless driving and three misdemeanor counts to the charges Kozlowski faces. Kozlowski was already charged with five felony counts of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle, 11 felony counts of reckless driving and nine misdemeanor counts of reckless driving.

The charges stem from a wreck that happened when Kozlowski allegedly lost control of his truck, causing it to overturn and jackknife in the middle of Interstate 94 near Eau Claire, WI. A charter bus carrying 44 students and teachers from Chippewa Falls High School returning from a band competition then hit the truck.

Five people – including the band director and the bus driver – were killed.

The prosecution charges that Kozlowski had been out partying that night and fell asleep at the wheel, according to The AP.

Kozlowski maintains that he was trying to pull his truck off the side of the road to go to the bathroom when he hit some soft ground and lost control.

However, a witness testified Feb. 24 that he had seen Kozlowski driving on the night in question and that his truck had swerved to the right and repeatedly drove over the rumble strips along the highway.

The judge set a status conference for March 22. No trial date was set, The AP reported.