Sixteen people -- including more than a dozen elementary...

May 27, 1998|By PETER HERMANN | PETER HERMANN,SUN STAFF Contributing writer Dan Diamond assisted with this article.

Sixteen people -- including more than a dozen elementary pupils -- were injured yesterday when a van slammed into the back of a yellow school bus in an impact that witnesses said sounded like an explosion.

The force of the crash in Northeast Baltimore spun the half-size bus carrying special education pupils and sent the green van tumbling end over end on Harford Road. The van landed on its wheels, a mangled heap of metal.

The van driver was critically injured in the 2: 45 p.m. accident on Harford at Montpelier Street. Several onlookers helped pull dazed and frightened pupils from the bus.

"It was like an explosion occurred," said Doris Winfree, 41. "I went to help the children. The children were crying, but they were more concerned about the driver."

Traffic investigators were at the scene yesterday evening and could provide few details. Names and ages of all the victims were not immediately available, but police said none of the pupils or the driver of the bus received life-threatening injuries.

"That's hard to believe when you look at the van," said Battalion Chief Hector L. Torres, a city Fire Department spokesman, pointing to the crumpled front of the barely recognizable vehicle. It took firefighters using power saws 30 minutes to free the female driver -- the lone occupant -- from the wreckage.

Every occupant of the bus was injured by the impact.

The 13 children, ages 4 to 9, were on their way home from Moravia Park Primary School on Frankford Avenue, about two miles away. Police said all were wearing seat belts -- safety equipment required on buses carrying special education pupils -- and were treated at Union Memorial and Johns Hopkins hospitals.

Driver in critical condition

The driver of the bus and another adult who was aboard were treated at Union Memorial. Their conditions were not immediately available. The driver of the van, Alice Street, 45, of the 700 block of E. 20th St., broke her right pelvis, right leg and a wrist. She was taken to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center and was in critical condition last night.

The accident occurred two blocks south of the site along Harford Road where an out-of-control sedan service vehicle careened down a sidewalk May 13, hitting five high school students, street signs, wooden steps and a tree.

Speeding is common problem

Police are investigating that crash and claims by the sedan driver that his gas pedal had stuck to the floor. But Harford Road residents who live across from Clifton Park said speed is a constant problem.

"They come down here like it's a highway," said Winfree, who ran from her Harford Road rowhouse when she heard the collision. "It doesn't make any sense."

Witnesses told police that the school bus, southbound on Harford Road, had slowed to make a right turn onto Montpelier, part of its scheduled route, and was hit from behind by the van.

No estimate on van's speed

The witnesses said the van flipped three times, crossed a raised cement median, and came to a stop about 50 feet away in the northbound lanes. Few skid marks were visible and police could not provide an estimate on how fast the van had been traveling.

Passer-by offers help

Leo J. Perfetta, an Army recruiting sergeant who was driving by, stopped and helped pull youngsters from the bus. "They were just shaken and asking about their bus driver," he said.

"Two kids were running around[the bus], and everyone else was shocked, wearing safety belts," said bystander Michael Douglas, who pulled out children. "The driver was lying on the floor and wasn't moving."

Witness Cynthia Gladney said the school bus spun around when it was hit. "I'm surprised it didn't tip over," she said as firefighters carried injured children to seven waiting ambulances. "The children were all screaming and hollering."

Pub Date: 5/27/98

HD : 16 hurt in school bus and van crash; Cause of collision on Harford Road being investigated

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