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Manatee girl, 12, hurt in school bus crash

EAST MANATEE — Parents and school officials alike expressed relief that a violent rear-end collision between a Ryder rental box truck and a school bus Tuesday did not end worse than it did.

Still, a 12-year-old Haile Middle School student boarding the stopped bus had to be taken to the hospital, and the crash left uninjured students and their parents shaken.

“She was scared,” Becky Suggs said of her daughter, bus-rider Summer Manning, also 12. “When I walked up and saw the truck I was really worried. I just couldn’t believe it.”

State transportation officials were examining the brakes of the rental truck after the driver said they failed before the collision. But investigators initially reported finding that the brakes were fully functional at the time of the crash.

At about 8:30 a.m., 51-year-old John E. Morgan of Groveland, who was driving a box truck carrying produce, swerved but could not avoid the bus — which had its stop sign out and lights flashing — and collided with the bus’s left rear end, according to Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Chris Miller.

The school bus had stopped just west of Lorraine Road to pick up the Haile Middle School student when the truck smashed into the back of the bus. The school bus sustained significant rear-end damage, while the impact shredded the right front side of the Ryder truck. Both vehicles sustained about $20,000 in damage, according to reports.

Emergency personnel took the girl, who a relative said was 12, to Lakewood Ranch Medical Center with minor injuries. The rest of the students were taken on another bus to Haile, which is only a half-mile from the crash site.

Morgan faces citations including careless driving and driving a commercial motor vehicle without an endorsement. He was taken to Lakewood Ranch Medical Center with minor non-life threatening injuries.

Miller said Morgan’s claim the brakes were not working, coupled with the fact that there were no signs of braking on the road, led to an investigation of the truck’s brakes by the Florida Department of Transportation.

School district spokeswoman Margi Nanney said all of the children on the bus were wearing seat belts at the time of the crash, most likely preventing more injuries.

“We got lucky on this one,” she said.

Suggs said her daughter gets on the bus every day from State Road 64, and she constantly fears for her safety on the busy thoroughfare. Suggs thinks the school district should consider moving bus stops off the road.

“I always hate it when my daughter goes out there. It’s the traffic, the speeding that goes on. I have been known to yell at people driving by who are going too fast,” she said.

Miller said the crash is the not the result of a “bad bus stop.”

“This is a straight road where you can see a mile in both directions,” Miller said. “Drivers need to cut down on the distractions in their vehicles, and pay extra attention in the morning and afternoon hours when school buses are out.”

Beth Burger contributed to this report.