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Chapel Hill bus driver pleads no contest in pedestrian's death

Posted April 28, 2009

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— A Chapel Hill Transit driver pleaded no contest Tuesday to a charge of misdemeanor death by vehicle in the Oct. 28 death of Valerie Hughes, 33, of 1148 Strader Drive in Burlington.

James Willie Orr, 65, apologized to the Hughes family in court, saying, "The only thing I can say is I'm sorry and please forgive me."

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.

Orr was placed on administrative leave without pay immediately after the collision and was fired Nov. 3.

The judge sentenced Orr to a 45-day suspended sentence, 100 hours of community service and said Orr may be required to speak about his experience. He will also lose his license for a year under regulations set out by the state Division of Motor Vehicles.

Hughes’ family has hired a lawyer. Attorney Octavis White said if the family decides to file suit, both the Town of Chapel Hill and Orr will be named as defendants.

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  • justafella Apr 28, 2009

    Sue the town, Yes, sue the old man, NO, hes at retirement age, how much do they expect to get from him, another homeless person thanks to sue happy.

  • mpheels Apr 28, 2009

    dmccall, I agree with you somewhat, I do feel bad for Orr and believe he is truly remorseful for what happened. It is something he will likely think about everyday and reconcile himself with. On the other had, this wasn't an accident, it didn't "just happen." I cross the street at that crosswalk everyday and drive through it at least once a week - there is no excuse for what happened other than neglect on the part of the driver. If we take a fatalistic approach and shrug off incidents like this as accidents, wrong place wrong time, then there is little motivation to prevent them. Based on his driving record prior to the incident, he shouldn't have been behind the wheel of the bus - I think the victim's family has a pretty strong case against the town.

  • sa120 Apr 28, 2009

    The man was charged with multiple prior moving offenses according to the earlier news reports. I feel sorry for the victim's family. Accidents may happen, but I believe that this one was caused by a reckless bus driver.

  • dmccall Apr 28, 2009

    I feel really sorry for the two of them. Accidents happen and it appears that he and she were at the wrong place at the wrong time. She's gone, and that's horrible, and he will live every remaining day thinking about her.