Driver of River Rats' bus cited for negligent driving

Monday, March 2, 2009
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— Investigators from the Massachusetts State Police have cited the driver of the Albany River Rats bus that rolled over on Interstate 90 last month for traveling too fast for the conditions.

Sgt. David Mahan said Stanley Novak, 63, of Glenmont was issued a civil citation for negligent driving in the accident, which seriously injured four hockey players and the team's color commentator. He was unsure the exact rate of speed Novak was traveling, but that he was exceeding the recommended speed given the snowy conditions during the early morning hours of Feb. 19.

"More or less, [the citation] has to do with the fact that he was traveling in adverse conditions," Mahan said today.

The infraction carries a $50 fine and could impact Novak's insurance. Mahan said the investigation into the accident has wrapped up and no further charges are expected.

The Yankee Trails coach carrying the team's players, coaches, broadcasters and support staff slid in wintry conditions on I-90, struck a guardrail and flipped on its side shortly before 3:30 a.m. in the Berkshire County town of Becket, Mass., about 56 miles outside of Albany. Forwards Nicolas Blanchard and Joe Jensen were injured along with defensemen Jonathan Paiement and Casey Borer; radio color commentator John Hennessy was also hospitalized following the crash.

Officials from the River Rats said they haven't seen the results of the investigation and declined to comment on Novak's citation. Jonathan Scherzer, the team's vice president of marketing, said the team had nothing negative to say about Novak's driving or Yankee Trails.

"Obviously, we have concerns and want to find out what the state police found through their process," he said.

Meanwhile, the team members injured in the crash are on the mend, Scherzer said. During their home game Sunday, the River Rats honored the Massachusetts emergency personnel that tended to the team following the accident.

Hennessy, who suffered head and neck injuries, worked his first game since the crash, and was named the Rats player of the game. He was joined by Borer, who appeared with his arm in a sling and wearing a blue baseball cap that read, “Lee F.D.” to honor the Massachusetts company that came to the team's rescue last month.

"It seems like things are getting better," Scherzer said.

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