Thursday, October 4, 2012

Tractor-Trailer Hits School Bus


Tractor-trailers can often cause accidents that can injure, kill, or change the lives of their victims.  In this case, a tractor-trailer rear-ended a local school bus in New York.  The Daily News Online reported this story, originally written by Paul Mrozek on 9/18/2012. The full article may be found by reading below or clicking this link.
EAST PEMBROKE — No one suffered serious injuries in a Monday afternoon crash that ended with a Pembroke Central school bus tipped onto its side.The bus was eastbound on Route 5 when it was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer driven by James Persons, 66, of Mill Village, Pa. The bus spun 180 degrees and came to rest in the front yard of a house on West Main Street Road in the town of Batavia. The crash occurred just west of the Bushville Bridge over Tonawanda Creek. East Pembroke Fire Department Chief Don Newton Jr. said the only child on the bus was transported as a precaution to United Memorial Medical Center. “It doesn’t look like it’s anything serious,’ Newton said.
The passenger, Thomas Starowicz, 4, complained of head pain, according to Gordon Dibble, chief deputy of road patrol with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office. Thomas was examined at UMMC and immediately released. A medical evaluation for a student is standard procedure for a school bus crash, Newton said. Drivers of both vehicles declined medical help and signed off at the scene. However, the bus operator, Thomas Swimline, 55, of Corfu complained later of back pain and sought medical assistance, Dibble said. There were no other occupants in either vehicle, Newton, the  fire chief, said.
Newton said he imagined a more serious scenario when he was initially dispatched to the accident. “I’m still trying to calm myself down,” he said. “Could have been a lot worse. Thank God it was only one child,” Genesee County Undersheriff William Sheron said. Two witnesses also said the 4-year-old passenger seemed to be OK once he was taken out of the bus.
The bus came to rest in the yard of Tracey McGaughey of 3299 West Main St. She said she saw the crash and helped get the student out. McGaughey was on her front porch, getting ready to put her son, Luke, 4, a prekindergarten student at Pembroke Primary School, on the bus. The driver usually backs into her driveway, she said. McGaughey and her son started walking down the driveway when she saw the semi crash into the back of the bus. “It looked like it was going pretty fast. I heard the screeching of the brakes,” she said. “The bus really got whacked.” The Pembroke Central vehicle came to rest on the passenger side. McGaughey ran into the house and called 911, then ran back outside. She could see the bus driver, a “Mr. Swimline,” who had his seat belt on, and the boy, who also appeared to be belted in. “He (the student) was still sitting in his seat,” McGaughey said. That conflicted with Dibble’s account. The chief deputy said the child was not belted in and it was not required under state law.
McGaughey said she and the driver of the semi tried to open the bus’ emergency roof hatch to extricate the two occupants, but it was stuck. The bus driver and passenger ended up exiting through the rear emergency door.
The back of the bus was pushed in and crumpled from the force of the impact and its rear windows were shattered. Swimline walked from the front of the bus, escorted his passenger to the rear door, and exited, McGaughey said.
The rear door’s two windows were the only ones broken on the bus. Both vehicles were towed from the scene. East Pembroke resident Tom Schneider drove by the accident right after the crash. He had just picked up his son, Camden, 2, from preschool at Batavia YMCA and was driving west on Route 5. “I turned around to make sure everyone was OK.” The boy on the bus looked as if he was uninjured, Schneider said, as he sat under a tree with McGaughey. McGaughey said her son usually sits next to Reece Starowicz.  They takes seats in the middle of the vehicle. McGaughey said she was still shaken by the experience. “My heart is racing. I’m on the verge of tears and I’m ready to throw up. I’m just thankful for God’s goodness,” she said.
The accident was called in to sheriff’s dispatchers at 12:08 p.m. The eastbound Pembroke bus was stopped, waiting to make a left turn into the driveway at 3299 West Main Street Rd., when it was rear-ended by the semi rig, owned by Rohrer Trucking of Waterford, Pa. Genesee County Sheriff Gary Maha said Persons, the truck driver, was talking to his fianc√© on a hands-free cell phone and didn’t notice the bus had halted and put on its left directional blinker. Persons was charged with following too closely and a state transportation law violation, having an improper log book. The trucker was also charged under United States Department of Transportation law, for having an overweight vehicle, Dibble said.
Deputy Lonnie Nati is handling the crash investigation. Matthew Calderone, superintendent of Pembroke Central Schools, was also at the scene. He said the district will evaluate the incident after it gets the accident report from the sheriff’s office. “We’re glad it appears there’s no injuries,” Calderone said. He made the statement before authorities reported complaints of pain to the student and bus driver. Dispatchers initially asked multiple fire departments and ambulances to respond to the scene. That was scaled back once the sheriff’s office was told there was a single passenger on the bus and that the boy and driver were out of the vehicle.

Attorney Doug Stoehr is a personal injury lawyer serving western and central Pennsylvania.  For more information on his central Pennsylvania practice, please clickhere or call at 814-946-4100.

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