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Police check video footage from deadly bus-train crash at Evans City crossing

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By Bill Vidonic
Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Police are reviewing video footage from a bus-train crash at an Evans City rail crossing that killed two elderly passengers, Butler County District Attorney Richard Goldinger said on Tuesday.

John Burkett, 88, of Zelienople died Saturday in the VNA Inpatient Hospice in Butler, investigators said. His family declined comment.

Another passenger, Claudette Miller, 91, of Callery died on April 26, the day of the crash, in Allegheny General Hospital. The eight other passengers suffered injuries. One is still recovering, investigators said.

Two video cameras in the Butler Area Rural Transit bus captured what happened, giving interior and exterior views of the bus, Goldinger said.

Goldinger would not say what the footage shows, except that the exterior view shows what driver Frank Schaffner saw looking straight ahead from the driver's seat.

Train crew members told investigators the BART bus was stopped on the tracks of the fog-shrouded Maple Avenue crossing at 8:10 a.m.

Schaffner's attorney, Michael Pawk, has said that Schaffner said he stopped at the edge of the crossing and the train struck the bus as he began to drive across the tracks. Investigators said the train was traveling the 25 mph speed limit.

Evans City police are awaiting toxicology reports for Schaffner, who has not spoken to investigators, before deciding whether to file any charges, Goldinger said.

“We don't know if this is a criminal matter or not,” Goldinger said.

Evans City police Chief Joseph McCombs did not return phone messages.

In a search warrant, police said Schaffner carried pills in two medication bottles. Pawk said they were fiber and antacid tablets.

Federal Railroad Administration spokesman Rob Kulat said his agency would review data from an event recorder on the train. Investigations of such crashes can take up to a year, he said.

Burkett was a former employee of Mine Safety Appliances and owned and operated a family milk-hauling business. His funeral was scheduled for Wednesday morning.

Bill Vidonic is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5621 or

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