- Associated Press - Friday, March 6, 2015

ORONDO, Wash. (AP) - A motorist died but dozens of children escaped serious injury when a truck driver apparently fell asleep and crossed the center line of a rural Washington highway, colliding with a car and a school bus, the Washington State Patrol said.

The patrol praised the Orondo School District bus driver Pamela Robertson, 53, saying she swerved as the large box truck careened toward the bus, likely limiting injury to the children.

Forty-three students taken to a hospital were sent home after evaluation and treatment if needed, authorities said.

Just over a year ago, the driver, identified as Kenneth Hahn, 54, of Yakima, was cited for crossing the center line in an injury collision in the same area of central Washington, the State Patrol said.

“We do suspect the driver fell asleep,” Trooper Darren Wright said of the Thursday morning crash. The investigation continues.

Photos showed significant damage to the right front side of the bus. Part of its roof was caved in and windows were smashed. The front half of the box truck was destroyed.

Robertson, the truck driver and a 36-year-old male passenger in the truck were reported in satisfactory condition Thursday night at Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee, hospital spokeswoman Steph Grubich said.

Authorities said the car driver, Carmela Cuellar Morales, 22, of Orondo, died at the scene. A 12-year-old female passenger in her car was treated at the hospital and released, Grubich said.

With a voluntary blood sample from the truck driver, investigators will check for any evidence that alcohol or drugs played a role in the crash, Wright said.

“When the truck crashed the bus, I (fell) and the kids fell out of the seats,” 6-year-old Jasmine Gaona told KOMO-TV of Seattle. She had a bandaged knee after being released from the hospital.

Hospital chief nursing officer Tracey Kasnic told KOMO there were “a few fractures” but mostly “bumps, bruises and lacerations.”

The crash occurred about 8 a.m. on Highway 97, about 5 miles north of the small community of Orondo. The roadway was clear and dry at the time, and the weather was sunny and clear.

Orondo has one school, a combination elementary-middle school with about 160 students.

Douglas County Sheriff Harvey Gjesdal said it was the worst accident he had seen in his 30-year law enforcement career.

“Anything involving a school bus causes great concern - sad, sad,” he said.

Millie Watkins, superintendent of the Orondo School District, agreed. “Obviously, this has been upsetting for everyone,” she said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide