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Chapel Hill Bus driver charged in fatal wreck

Posted November 4, 2008

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— A Chapel Hill Transit driver has been charged in connection with the death of a pedestrian struck last Tuesday by a bus.

James Willie Orr, 65, was charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle in the Oct. 28 death of Valerie Hughes, 33, of 1148 Strader Drive in Burlington.

Hughes was struck around 4 p.m. Oct. 27 at the intersection of South Columbia Street and Mason Farm Road and died the next day at UNC Hospitals, where she worked in radiology ambulatory care.

Orr was immediately placed on administrative leave without pay, and following an internal investigation, was fired Monday.

According to police records, the Chapel Hill Police Department has investigated 10 wrecks since 2001 – not including last week's – in which Orr was involved. He was at fault in most of the wrecks. Nine of them were in a town vehicle.

Town officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Steven Spade, director of Chapel Hill Transit, said he could not comment on Orr's driving record because it is a personnel matter.

Hughes' death was the second this year in Chapel Hill in which a pedestrian was struck by a bus.

In May, a UNC exchange student, Lisa Carolyn Moran, of Scotland, was jogging through the south campus when she lost her footing and slid under a bus. The driver was not charged.

"The Town Council has expressed an ongoing concern with pedestrian safety, and this unfortunate accident highlights our need to continue and improve upon that effort," Town Manager Roger Stancil said in a statement Tuesday.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • hkypky Nov 6, 2008

    I truly believe this was an accident however I hope the family takes every dime they can from Chapel Hill.

    There is no reason at all this guy should have been hired/allow to remain as a bus driver prior to the accident

    Lastly, as nice as the UNC Campus and surrounding area is, it is also the absolute worst campus area I have ever been around when it comes to commuter vehicles, traffic, and parking. The worst!!!

    There are people that make far too much money who are simply ignoring the problem UNC has had for years and years.

    I attend a fraction of the events at UNC that I would simply because of the parking/commuting nightmare that UNC is.

  • chickentender63 Nov 5, 2008

    "While I don't disagree with that, it's still more deadly to not see the bus"

    Ah cookie, you are correct. But, how do you suppose you see a bus when you are walking forward and the bus approaches you from behind?

    The human being has pretty good vision to the front and periphial, but I haven't seen one yet with eyes in the back of the head (although I think my ex-wife came close, but she wasn't human either)

  • Common Sense Man Nov 5, 2008

    You can add two more wrecks to the list that UNC PD investigated. It's a shame that this man was still employed. 13 wrecks in 7 years??!?!?!?!??!!?

  • Common Sense Man Nov 5, 2008

    "But, I guess on the same token, I don't understand how a bus driver could not easily avoid a pedestrian in a crosswalk unless they are not paying attention to the road in front of them."

    While I don't disagree with that, it's still more deadly to not see the bus.

  • mpheels Nov 5, 2008

    Plus weedy, he was a public employee, so if he was a union member it wouldn't have protected him at all since public employees do not have collective bargaining rights in NC, making them pretty much useless for public employees.

  • chickentender63 Nov 5, 2008

    ah weedy, it says right in the article that he got fired.


    Do you guys want to know why this person did not get fired?
    Because he is in a union that is supported by the democrats!

    Its that simple!

  • mpheels Nov 5, 2008

    "Lets do away with wasteful public transportation. Each and everyone of us pays for these busses even if we ride them or not. No bus... no getting run over by the bus."

    Wasteful? How are the buses in CH/Carrboro wasteful? The transition to fare free busing was done with overwhelming support from permanent residents and UNC students. UNC students pay for 40% of the cost directly with student fees, plus they contribute to the 60% covered by CH/Carrboro through rent/property taxes, so the average citizen in CH/Carrboro isn't paying that much.

    What plan do you have for the majority of UNC students and employees who take the bus because they can't park on campus? The ability to walk/bus to work with ease was one of the major reasons I decided to work at UNC.

  • redwarrior Nov 5, 2008

    In defense of these drivers, they have to bully their way alot of times because no one wants to let a bus out or over. No one wants to get stuck behind one so they refuse to make room for them.

  • enigma1469 Nov 5, 2008

    Lets do away with wasteful public transportation. Each and everyone of us pays for these busses even if we ride them or not. No bus... no getting run over by the bus.