May 27, 2022 — On Thursday afternoon, a local motorist failed to stop and rear-ended, and possibly totaled, one of Siuslaw School District 97j’s school buses.
Last weekend was the Rhododendron Festival, which typically means the beginning of tourist season. From now until fall visitors will be coming from all over to visit the central Oregon coast which causes a significant increase in traffic in Florence, especially on Highway 101.
“With tourist season upon us and more traffic on our streets, please pay attention while driving,” said Siuslaw Valley Fire and Rescue in a Facebook post where they updated the public on the accident.
Later in the evening of May 26, Siuslaw School District Superintendent Andy Grzeskowiak relayed an account of the accident.
“After the bus had made its initial in-town drop-offs, it was headed back for the sixth to 12th graders for the out-of-town portion of the run,” he said. “While waiting to make a left turn onto 28th Street from Highway 101 North, the bus was struck from behind by a small passenger truck that had drifted from their lane of travel into the turn lane.”
According to Grzeskowiak, students on the bus were practicing proper bus safety. That may have been why there were no apparent injuries as of the morning after accident.
“Neither students nor the driver were injured,” reported Grzeskowiak. “The students were properly seated in the front of the bus. None of the students were injured after a quick first aid roadside check.”
The school district dispatched a second bus to pick up the students, as well as the older students, to finish the remainder of the route.
Even with no apparent injuries, the district contacted parents of the students who were on the bus to fill them in on the accident.
“The district office called all of the parents of the students on the bus at the time to inform them of the incident and the delay in getting home,” Grzeskowiak said. “And with the call home there was a request that parents give their children another quick check when they arrived home for any bumps or bruises that may develop later.”
Though an investigation is pending, according to emergency responders, it appears this may be a case of a driver that was doing something besides driving.
“The driver of the pickup truck was taken away by ambulance,” said Grzeskowiak. “Law enforcement believes that the driver of the truck may have been reaching for something that had fallen onto the floor of their vehicle, which is when it drifted into the turn lane to strike the bus. Since the driver was taken away by ambulance, their investigation is still ongoing.”
Also to be investigated will be the condition of the bus, though the early prognosis is not good.
“With the truck striking the bus under the bumper and hitting the frame, there is a good chance that the frame of the bus is bent,” Grzeskowiak said. “The side panel has a pretty significant ripple up the side, so there is going to be unseen damage. The mechanic will get it up on the rack (Friday) morning for a more detailed inspection and then we will get a safety inspection to determine if the bus is repairable, but chances are this bus has seen its last day transporting students to and from school.”
Though the loss of one of its buses could be costly, Grzeskowiak stressed the safety of all involved.
“Most importantly, no students, staff observers nor the driver were injured,” said Grzeskowiak. “While the driver of the pickup was injured, luckily the initial reports are that their injuries are not critical.”
The next morning, Western Lane Fire and EMS Division Chief of Operations Matt House reported that the driver had been released from the hospital with minor injuries.
“The driver of the other vehicle was entered into the trauma system due to the mechanism of injury, but sustained minor injuries,” reported House. “The driver was discharged to their residence from PeaceHealth Peace Harbor. There were no other patients involved in the accident.”