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Bucks Teen Paralyzed In February Bus Crash Describes Ordeal

(Matt Cruz, with his mother, Megan, at Magee Rehab in Philadelphia.  Credit: Pat Loeb)

(Matt Cruz, with his mother, Megan, at Magee Rehab in Philadelphia. Credit: Pat Loeb)

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By Pat Loeb, Dray Clark

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Bucks County teenager who was critically injured on a bus trip to Boston in February spoke with reporters at Magee Rehabilitation Center today, just days after Massachusetts authorities filed criminal charges against the bus driver.

Matt Cruz remembers very little about the accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down.

“The last thing I remember from the accident is getting onto the bus, five minutes into the ride, then after that nothing,” he said today.

Cruz was in the seventh row of the bus, which took the brunt of the impact when the bus hit a low bridge (see related story).

The 16-year-old sophomore at Neshaminy High School, a runner and high-achieving student, broke his neck (another related story).  He had to stay in Boston for weeks, and arrived at Magee on a ventilator.

Cruz’s doctor says Matt has made better-than-expected progress but, at least in the short term, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to walk.

Matt, though, is an optimist.

“Keep your head up and never, never look down on any situation,” he said today.  “Stay optimistic, because nine weeks ago I didn’t think I’d be here.  So…”

Matt says his short-term goal is just to return home.  He hasn’t been there since he left for the ill-fated trip to Harvard.

Bus driver Sam Jackson was taking 35 people — students and chaperones from an after-school nonprofit group — back to Bucks County after a tour of the Ivy League campus when authorities say he failed to heed signs warning of a height restriction on Soldiers Field Road.

Jackson has been charged with driving negligently (see related story).  He could not be reached for comment.

Matt’s mother, Megan, says she bears the driver no personal hard feelings but is grateful for the charges and is also suing Jackson civilly.

“Even though it’s an accident, you still need to be held accountable for your actions,” she said today.

Megan says Matt has needs not covered by insurance, including ramps for his wheelchair and a special van for transportation.

“The Matthew Robert Cruz Third-Party Funded Special Needs Trust,” has been set up for donations at the Bucks County First Federal Credit Union, 2104 Bath Road, Bristol, PA  19007.

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