Police say that a school-bus driver, a 73-year-old Barrie man, has been charged with disobeying a stop sign/failing to stop after a school bus crash yesterday.
South Simcoe police say excessive speed and mechanical failure have been ruled out as a cause.
Several Nantyr Shores Secondary School students were taken to the hospital, including one by air ambulance with serious injuries, for precautionary reasons and with other non-life-threatening injuries following a crash Wednesday morning involving a school bus and a pickup truck.
According to South Simcoe police, one student was airlifted to a Toronto hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
The collision occurred around 7:45 a.m., at the intersection of 5 Sideroad and the 4th Line.
South Simcoe police Sgt. Dave Phillips said there were 14 students and the driver aboard the bus at the time of the collision.
“Everyone with the exception of two people were transported (to hospital) for precautionary measures to serious injuries,” Phillips said.
Police said three of the students, including the person who was airlifted, suffered serious injuries.
Lisa Taylor, who lives in a former schoolhouse at the intersection, told BarrieToday she heard the crash and immediately went outside to see what had happened.
“I heard a loud bang, so my son and I came running out to see what was going on,” she said.
“We saw the bus and everybody thinks of the Humboldt Broncos,” added Taylor, alluding to the April 6 crash in Saskatchewan that killed 16 people and injured 13 others as the hockey team's bus was struck by a tractor-trailer while heading to a playoff game.
“This could have been a terrible, terrible scenario here," Taylor said. "You know there are going to be multiple victims and you know there are children, so I think everybody did what they needed to do and it got done. This could’ve been a disastrous scene.”
Taylor said there were people running to the crash scene from every direction, doing whatever they could to help.
“If you can imagine, somebody was coming from every vehicle,” she said. “Everyone was running.”
Taylor said she went around to the other side of the overturned bus and could see about 11 students already outside.
“Because the door of the bus is pinned down (on the ground), they were getting them out of the roof hatch,” Taylor said, adding she offered to bring the students into her house, where she got them blankets and water as well as a chance to call their parents. “Whatever they needed to do.”
The bus came to rest on its driver’s side, wedged between two guard rails on the 4th Line.
“There was somebody in the bus still that had some injuries that needed to be carefully taken care of,” Taylor added, noting there was a team of around three people taking people out of the bus.
“It was a very busy scene,” Taylor said, pointing to the farmer’s field across the road where the air ambulance landed. “It was calm. It was the most official, unofficial response I’ve ever seen. It was so professional that I had to ask if they (people administering first-aid) were the first responders. Everybody was calm and getting stuff done.”
Paramedics began coming into her house to assess the students’ injuries.
The pickup truck was travelling northbound on 5 Sideroad and the school bus was heading east on the 4th Line, Phillips said.
“There was some fog this morning, so we’ll be investigating road and weather factors, signage and so far everything is checking out,” he said, adding more information needed to be collected before any determination on charges could be made.
The on-scene investigation was wrapping up Wednesday afternoon, including Ministry of Transportation officials who were there to inspect the school bus. The pickup truck will also undergo a full mechanical examination.
“Right now, we’ve just collected data and evidence at the scene,” Phillips said.
South Simcoe police, Innisfil firefighters and Simcoe County paramedics all attended the scene when the call came in Wednesday morning.
Phillips said many community members and drivers all jumped into action to help.
“It was a real team effort today,” he told BarrieToday at the scene. “It’s not every day that you end up with so many injured parties at a collision scene.”
When Phillips arrived on the scene, he saw firefighters and paramedics administering first-aid to the injured.
“It’s a traumatic incident, however, everyone buckled down and did what they had to do,” he said. “We’re thankful for all of the help we received.”
Taylor said she was impressed by the size of the response.
“I couldn’t even begin to count, but every direction you looked in, there were ambulances, fire trucks, police cars. It was a huge response and that brought comfort to everyone. It was very nice to see everyone pulling together for the good of others.”
Taylor, who has lived at the intersection for about a year, said it is “a bad corner,” noting the guardrail was already crumpled when they moved in.
“There is evidence when you look around; it’s not the first time something has happened," she said. "People go super fast because they feel like they can. They’ve got good sight lines and they come whipping down here.”