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Pasco County Fla--School Bus Accident sends 16 to hospital

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  • Pasco County Fla--School Bus Accident sends 16 to hospital

    St. Petersburg Times--Pasco County

    Car strikes school bus; kids injured
    Another bus also is involved in the crash. Fifteen students are taken to local hospitals for treatment.

    By JAMIE JONES and MELIA BOWIE
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 29, 2003


    NEW PORT RICHEY - On the last day of school, Erika Young was sitting on a school bus with her best friend Wednesday afternoon when she felt a crash and then heard the screams.

    A car collided with the school bus on Seven Springs Boulevard, causing the bus to swerve into an oncoming lane of traffic. The bus skidded across the road, tires screeching, and almost flipped over before coming to an abrupt halt in the northbound lane, just south of Perrine Ranch Road, witnesses said.

    Inside, teenagers were crying and shouting. They had been bounced around - colliding with windows, the ceiling, each other.

    During the crash, Erika, 14, looked over at her friend, whom she identified as Kathy Arbuckle, a 15-year-old student at J.W. Mitchell High School.

    Erika said Kathy had grabbed her arm just before Kathy's head slammed into the window and ceiling. Kathy then collapsed in the aisle.

    Erika reached over to help.

    The bus was in chaos.

    Students were scrambling toward the doors, some crawling out of the emergency exit in the back.

    Erika stayed inside, talking to her friend.

    "I told her, "It's okay, everything's fine, it's over,' " said a teary-eyed Erika after the accident. "I told her to keep her eyes open."

    Pasco County paramedics quickly arrived and put Kathy, who had possible head injuries, on a helicopter headed to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg. Another student with a possible broken leg also was flown to Bayfront, as was the driver of another car involved.

    The accident occurred shortly after 3 p.m. and involved five cars and two school buses. The second bus, also traveling north on Seven Springs Boulevard, was able to stop before the crash, school officials said, but students were injured when jostled during the sudden stop. Both buses contained students from Seven Springs Middle and Mitchell High schools.

    Fifteen students from both buses with cuts, soreness and possible broken bones were taken to local hospitals for treatment.

    The Florida Highway Patrol was investigating the crash late Wednesday.

    According to witnesses and sheriff's deputies, here's what happened:

    Nicole Smith and a friend were southbound on Seven Springs Boulevard in a red Mustang when a red Jeep Cherokee they were following stopped to make a lefthand turn into the Cherry Tree Early Learning Center driveway.

    Smith needed to avoid the Cherokee.

    She saw a silver Cadillac behind her, followed by a green Ford Taurus.

    "We veered to the right and pulled off," she said.

    The Taurus smacked into the Cadillac, spinning it into the path of the oncoming school bus rumbling northbound on Seven Springs Boulevard.

    The bus spun around and careened into the southbound lane, hitting a taxi cab that was driving behind the green Taurus.

    A second school bus, driven by Teri Gee, was able to stop before hitting anything, said Jack Greene, school district transportation supervisor.

    After the crash, teens gathered on the roadside, and the shaken taxi driver wandered the scene with a bloody arm, staring at his crushed cab.

    Eleven students from the first bus and six students from the second bus needed medical treatment, Greene said.
    The driver of the first bus, William Hersem, was treated for back pain, Greene said.

    Hersem has been with the district since August 2000 and has had one accident on duty. It was his fault and resulted in two points on his license, said Michael Park, school district director of transportation.

    On Wednesday, witnesses said Hersem did nothing wrong.

    "That bus was just in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Maurico Guillen, who saw the accident while driving his white van. He said he watched as the bus almost flipped over, as if in slow motion.

    "There was no way he could avoid (the crash)," Guillen said. "He tried to brake."

    Students called Hersem a hero.

    "We were about to tip over, and then the bus driver grabbed the wheel real tight and turned us straight," said Jarred Ivers, 13, his face flushed after the accident.

    Jarred had just finished his last day of seventh grade and was riding home with his friend, Kenny Smith, for a sleepover.

    As people screamed after the crash, Jarred scrambled out of the bus with his friend, who was holding a hurt wrist.

    "He was crying; he thought he broke it," Jarred said.

    After the crash, students were hugging and crying. Pasco County firefighters approached each student, passed out ice packs and asked whether everyone was okay. Parents arrived by the dozens and stood in the grass amid discarded bandages and water cups, holding their children.

    They watched as helicopters circled the blue sky above.

    "It was a great day until this," said Erika, who was eager to hear about the condition of her friend Kathy.

    School officials tried to look on the bright side. "It could have been a heckuva lot worse," superintendent John Long said. "I'm always amazed at how tough these old buses are."

    - Times staff writer Cary Davis contributed to this report.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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