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Long Island truck driver to serve 15 years after fatal bus crash

Raymond Ragen, 46, was sentenced Thursday to serve up to 15 years in prison after a fatal school bus crash that killed the driver and injured an aide on board.
Photo Credit: Mike Balsamo

A Long Island truck driver who was convicted on manslaughter charges in connection with a fatal school bus crash was sentenced Thursday to serve up to 15 years in prison.

Nassau County Court Judge William Donnino told Raymond Ragen, 46, of Mineola, his “reckless conduct” caused the July 2012 crash that claimed the life of the bus driver and left a bus aide seriously injured. Ragen, who must serve at least 5 years behind bars, was found guilty in April of manslaughter and assault. Jurors acquitted him on a series of other charges, including aggravated vehicular homicide, vehicular manslaughter and a second assault count.

Authorities alleged Ragen slammed into a Long Island Rail Road crossing bridge in Matinecock, knowing the overpass was too low for his more than 13-foot cement truck, before he collided head-on with a mini-school-bus that was transporting special-needs children home from summer camp. The crash killed the driver, 45-year-old Jorge Guevara, of Locust Valley, who prosecutors have said was pinned inside the bus for more than 30 minutes before he died. A monitor aboard the bus, Louis Kragouras, 65, was seriously injured and testified he needed a hip replacement and knee surgery after the crash.

Guevara’s son, 19-year-old Jorge Guevara, spoke at Ragen’s sentencing Thursday, telling the judge he has come to understand his father will never come home, but that his 4-year-old brother still thinks their father will come home. “My youngest brother still believes he’s alive,” Guevara said. “I hope that today you can find justice for my youngest brother.”

Ragen’s defense lawyer, David Besso, said his client intends to appeal the conviction because jurors came to a “compromise verdict.” He said the jury had dismissed the prosecution’s theory that Ragen had been high on valium and said a police officer had said Ragen wasn’t impaired. Besso said his client has expressed remorse, but would not speak at the sentencing because an appeal is pending.

Outside the courtroom, Besso said Ragen had told police that a sport-utility-vehicle had sideswiped his truck, causing him to hit his head on the windshield and lose consciousness before he smashed into the overpass. During the trial, Besso had argued that police did not attempt to locate that vehicle. He said the incident was a “terrible tragedy” and there was “no reckless conduct.”

Arguing that Ragen should get the maximum penalty, Assistant District Attorney Brenden Ahearn said the defendant was a persistent drug user and posed a “dangerous, deadly hazard” behind the wheel. He said Ragen has a series of prior convictions, which include multiple drug-related charges and a driving while intoxicated count. Ahearn also told the judge that the victims’ families have “paid for his crimes.”

“The irreparable damage caused by Mr. Ragen's reckless actions will never be erased," Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice tweeted after the sentence. Ahearn and Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Dellinger, who prosecuted the case, both declined to comment. Ragen, who has already served 15 months in jail, also declined comment.

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