Not Guilty Plea Entered for Bus Driver in Fatal I-40 Crash

FORREST CITY, AR - A plea of not guilty was entered today for a Texas bus driver charged with four felonies after he tested positive for amphetamines in a deadly crash in eastern Arkansas.

Neither Felix Badillo Tapia of Brownsville nor this attorney were present for the hearing before Circuit Judge L.T. Simes in Forrest City, and the court recessed for about 10 minutes while a deputy prosecutor tried to locate Tapia or his lawyer.

Deputy Prosecutor Christopher Morledge returned and told the judge he spoke to defense lawyer Tonya Alexander.  The prosecutor said Alexander wanted to enter the not guilty plea, which the judge then accepted.

Tapia, who faces four counts of felony negligent homicide, was previously released on bond.

He was driving a Tornado Bus Company bus on November 25 when it crossed the median on Interstate-40 near Forrest City, and collided with a pickup truck and a tractor-trailer.  Three bus passengers and the pick-up truck driver were killed.  More than 20 others were injured.

The bus was carrying 47 people from Chicago to Dallas when the crash occured.

If convicted, Tapia could be sentenced to up to ten years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each count.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)