Port Charlotte, Florida
Six school kids had their guardian angle riding with them Friday morning.
Shortly after the students were dropped off at Charlotte Harbor and Peace River Elementary schools, a 30-ton motorized crane smashed into the rear of their school bus. Three of the four adults aboard the bus, the driver of a car, and the crane driver were all injured in the collision.
“If the accident had occurred an hour earlier, the bus would have had six handicapped children aboard,” Ed Vuolo, route manager for the Charlotte County school bus system said. “Thank God there were no kids on that bus.”
The bus was on its way back to its compound in Englewood when it was struck just east of the El Jobean Bridge on State Road 776 at 8:15 a.m.
According to John Smith, the bus driver, he was heading west and had stopped to allow a car ahead of him to turn left into the Texaco station immediately east of the bridge.
“I saw the crane coming in my rear view mirror,” he said. “He apparently tried to miss me but hit the back corner of my bus and then careened into an oncoming car.”
The crane came to rest in a ditch 200 feet away, along the south side of S.R. 776, next to the service station. It somehow missed the gas pumps out front. The bus plowed into the car that was turning left in front of it after being rear ended by the crane.
“I think my seat belt was the only thing that saved me,” Smith said as he looked at the back of his crumpled school bus. “The two bus aides and the other driver who were riding with me were all injured. They had no seat belts.”
The injured included: Lillian Waters and Jean Brown, two of the bus passengers who were treated and released at Englewood Community Hospital. Daytha Hardin, the other bus passenger, was treated and released from Bon Secours-St. Joseph Hospital in Port Charlotte.
Frank Dixon, 50, 5400 Riverside Dr., Punta Gorda, the crane driver, and Patricia Glenn, 42, 5363 Riley St., Englewood, who was driving the car struck by crane, were also treated and released from St. Joseph’s.
Trooper Gus Smyrnos, of the Florida Highway Patrol, said it appeared the accident occurred when Valarie Bibens, 49, of 14454 Worthwild Lane, El Jobean, attempted to turn left into the service station. The school bus was stopped behind her car and the crane, that was also headed west, failed to stop and struck the left rear of the bus, according to the trooper.
After hitting the school bus, it continued on west into the path of Glenn’s eastbound car, the accident report notes. The impact from the crane pushed the bus into the back of a Bibens’ car.
The trooper noted that all vehicles were driving within the speed limit. Total damage was listed at $11,000. He said charges are pending.
Category: Accident Report