James P. Irvin III

James P. Irvin III

The man who caused a loaded school bus to crash on Route 30 in May 2017 will serve five to 20 years in prison, a Lancaster County judge ruled Friday.

James P. Irvin III, now 48, was driving on a suspended license when he caused the multiple-vehicle collision that toppled a Lancaster Mennonite School bus carrying 14 students on May 17, 2017.

He fled the scene of the crash, which left two students seriously injured.

Irvin, from Nottingham, was living with his parents in Lancaster Township at the time of the crash.

He was found guilty on all of nearly 70 charges stemming from the incident after a non-jury trial. Judge Howard Knisely, who returned the guilty verdict on May 16, 2018, issued sentence on Friday.

‘Huge mistakes’

Irvin, wearing handcuffs and green prison garb, told Knisely on Friday that he “wasn’t raised to end up here.”

“I recognize that I made a bunch of huge mistakes,” he said, shifting rapidly from foot to foot. “I am truly, truly sorry for all of the negative impacts. ... I really don’t have an excuse.”

Irvin said at trial that he was late for work when the collision occurred while he was making an illegal pass. According to LNP records, he struck one vehicle, which triggered the crash with the bus, while traveling over 70 mph in a 40 mph zone.

He fled the scene, Irvin said, because he feared the consequences of driving on a suspended license.

He turned himself in about a week later.

Irvin was found guilty on 68 charges, including nine felony counts of aggravated assault, aggravated assault by vehicle and hit-and-run.

Noam Weaver, who was 6 years old at the time of the accident, was ejected from the bus and pinned beneath the heavy vehicle, suffering numerous injuries.

A 16-year-old boy suffered a fractured vertebra. Nine other students were also injured.

‘Worst nightmare’

Some of the students and their families watched from the gallery as the sentence was pronounced. Some made statements, urging a mix of consequence and forgiveness for Irvin.

Sheri Weaver, Noam’s mother, said her son “fought for his life” after the accident, undergoing numerous surgeries and blood transfusions, and learning to rely on his left hand because of nerve damage to his right.

It was, she said, “the worst nightmare” a parent could imagine.

Weaver did not ask Knisely for a specific sentence, noting her family chooses “not to waste our time or energy hating him.”

Donald Cairns, whose son suffered broken vertebrae and a concussion in the crash, chastised Irvin for never reaching out to the families of the injured children.

He encouraged Irvin to “turn his life around,” and said the sentence should be “as long as it takes” for that to occur.

Lancaster Mennonite Superintendent Pamela Tieszen asked the judge for “restorative justice,” noting that Irvin’s actions have changed the lives of the school’s entire student body and faculty.

Assistant District Attorney Trista Boyd, who prosecuted the case with ADA Travis Anderson, said Irvin has shown “no remorse” and taken “no responsibility” for his actions.

“The victims and their families have shown more concern, more compassion for the defendant than he has shown for them,” she said.

‘Upstanding and involved’

Speaking on Irvin’s behalf, lifelong friend Jeremy Weitzel called Irvin “an upstanding and involved man,” particularly in the lives of his two teenage sons, who were present in court Friday.

Irvin’s father, James Irvin, asked the judge for leniency, noting that his son has already suffered by losing his job, missing his oldest son’s graduation and causing embarrassment to the family.

Knisely cautioned the elder Irvin that anything he said in court could be used against him in the future, since he allegedly allowed his son to use his car for years despite knowing his license was suspended for at least 12 years.

‘Danger to society’

Knisely, before reading sentence, noted that Irvin’s work record and his place in the community — including regular visits to his sons, who live with their mother in another county, as well as coaching sports teams and being involved in Cub Scouts — stand in his favor.

However, he said, Irvin has previous convictions for theft, receiving stolen property and simple assault, and his driving record includes dozens of violations that he failed to address.

Knisely said Irvin demonstrated “a sustained period of recklessness” and “malice toward all on that highway.”

“His driving record shows he is clearly a danger to society,” he said. “And he has shown little remorse.”

He ordered individual sentences for each of 68 charges, some to be served consecutively and others concurrently. In addition, Irvin was ordered to pay more than $22,000 in restitution, much of which will go to the Weaver family.

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