- Associated Press - Friday, March 14, 2014

BUTLER, Pa. (AP) - A man who drove a minibus carrying senior citizens and people with disabilities onto an unmarked railroad crossing will spend a year on house arrest and up to 15 more on probation for a train crash that killed two passengers and injured several others.

Frank Schaffner, 60, of Butler Township, apologized after his sentencing Thursday.

“I’m sincerely sorry. I messed up. I’m sorry. That’s all I can say,” Schaffner said.

Evans City police said bus surveillance video shows Schaffner didn’t stop at the crossing, which doesn’t have warning lights or gates. Although it was foggy that morning, Schaffner told police he didn’t stop because he’d never encountered a train during the hundreds of times he crossed the tracks in the past.

Schaffner told police he didn’t hear the train over a radio, though his passengers did and began screaming. The train was about 70 feet away when Schaffner told police he saw it and tried to accelerate out of its way.

The crash killed 91-year-old Claudette Miller and 88-year-old John Burkett.

“I feel no hatred toward Mr. Schaffner. I do feel anger toward him and sorrow for his family’s situation, owing to his carelessness,” said Burkett’s daughter, Judy Hannas, 63, of Bloomsburg.

Sandra Scheller said Miller, her grandmother, was like a “broken baby doll” in the hospital before she succumbed to her injuries. “Where do I hold her? How do I tell her goodbye?”

Schaffer no longer drives for Butler County Rural Transit, which operated the bus for the Alliance for Nonprofit Resources, an agency that supports groups that served the passengers.

The former Army medic is receiving treatment at a nearby VA hospital for anxiety, depression and even flashbacks he has of the crash.

“I keep reliving the accident three to four times a week,” Schaffner said. “Every time I see a parked bus, it brings it back.”

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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