FHP: Bus crash driver wasn't speeding, will be cited

Herald Staff ReportersDecember 16, 2013 

MANATEE — Fifteen students were transported Monday to Manatee Memorial Hospital and Blake Medical Center with what officials called minor injuries after two buses containing a combined total of 74 students from Moody Elementary School collided.

The accident occurred at 3:20 p.m. on Cortez Road West and 40th Street West. One bus rear-ended the other while students were on board, said Trooper Kenn Watson of the Florida Highway Patrol.

The buses were not speeding, Watson said.

The lead bus, No. 682, had to stop suddenly for heavy Cortez Road traffic and the trailing bus, No. 615, did not stop in time and rear-ended the front bus, Watson said. The driver of the trailing bus, who wasn’t immediately identified, will be cited for careless driving, Watson said.

“Although the buses were not going that fast, the impact still caused children to be thrown from their seats and children to be covered in broken glass,” Watson said. “All the injuries were superficial.”

Steve Valley, Manatee County School District spokesman, said emergency medical service personnel took all students complaining of headaches and other ailments to MMH and Blake.

“Representatives from our transportation department will be going to both hospitals to monitor students,” Valley said via email as of 3:56 p.m. Monday.

Cedar Hammock Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Samuel Collier later confirmed his units responded to the bus accident at 3:24 p.m.

“We found a total of 15 children requiring treatment,” Collier said.

Treatment involved removing bits of glass from student ears and hair, Watson said.

No fire or other hazards were found, Collier said. Two engines and seven EMS units were needed to treat and transport the children to care centers, he said via email. Watson also said an adult was also taken to a local hospital but he did not know if the person was a bus driver.

Eight students out of 48 riding lead bus No. 682 went to hospitals while seven out of 26 on the rear bus No. 615 did so.

Uninjured students were not released from the buses until checked out by medical personnel and parents or guardians arrived to sign for them.

Many parents waited an hour or so behind police crime tape for their children. Angry parents

John Knies said he got two calls from the school district, including one saying buses were running late and one shortly after saying there had been an accident. He was upset and angry.

“They were late and hauling a--,” John Knies said of the bus drivers. The Knies at least knew their son, Devin, 9, was unhurt. He has his own cell phone and texted his mother and father as he sat on Bus No. 682, “I’m OK,” he texted.

“That was awesome,” Kathy Knies said of her son’s thoughtfulness.

Paula Phillips’ two sons, Neveah Phillips, 9, and Tyler Bulls, 6, were also OK on Bus No. 682.

“Some kids hit their heads and some had hurt necks,” Neveah said. “Some kids were crying.”

Neveah said he grabbed the frame of the seat in front of him and avoided injury but some schoolmates hit their heads, he said.

Josue Figueroa, 7, who was picked up uninjured by his aunt, Carla Mejia, described the crash as a “jerk or jolt.”

Tamandra Etienne, 6, was one of the children taken to Blake Medical Center from Bus No. 682.

“I’m shaking” said Tamandra’s mother, Lourdy Etienne, who could not leave for the hospital because her other child, Jeremiah, 5, was still on bus No. 682. Jeremiah was unhurt.

“Tamandra had a brace on her neck when she came off the bus,” Lourdy Etienne said. Taylor Etienne, Lourdy’s husband, was furious.

“I called the school when the bus didn’t arrive at the bus stop and they told me everything was OK, that the bus was just late,” Taylor Etienne said. “They lied. I’m telling you, the lady said everything was OK. Everything wasn’t OK. There had been an accident. You can’t do that with kids involved.”

Richard Dymond and Erica Earl, Herald staff reporters, can be reached at 941-745-7072 and 941-745-7081, respectively.

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