Unusual bus death probed in Arundel

Woman found dead with doors shut around her neck

October 07, 1999|By Devon Spurgeon | Devon Spurgeon,SUN STAFF

Cynthia Marie Sienkiewicz was doing what she had done so many nights for the past year: cleaning a bus.

The mother of two teen-agers worked three nights a week at Huber's Bus Co. in Ferndale, scouring, sweeping and scrubbing the charter and school buses to a sparkle for the comfort of the next day's riders.

Tuesday night, Sienkiewicz died there in a type of accident that Anne Arundel County police and the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health agency said they had never before seen.

Police said they think that while she was leaning into the bus to wash the stairs, she tripped a mechanism controlling the front door, causing the doors to close on her neck.

The 45-year-old woman died instantly, police said.

Co-workers found Sienkiewicz standing limp against the bus with her head caught in the doors of the 1985 silver Eagle charter bus. No one witnessed the accident, and police were unsure when it happened.

County police arrived at the bus company about 6: 30 p.m. They were unable to free her body until a bus company mechanic activated an outside emergency switch to open the hydraulic doors.

"So far, all indications are that this was a tragic accident," said Lt. Jeff Kelly, county police spokesman. "This is really unusual. We have just never heard of such an occurrence."

The state medical examiner's office had not ruled yesterday on the cause of death.

The family of the Pasadena native and Northeast High School graduate said yesterday that they do not understand how the accident could have happened.

"It is not like she was sick or anything. She was just working, that is all," said niece Suzanne Harris. "We did everything together as a family."

Sienkiewicz arrived at work about 4: 30 p.m. after finishing her job as an aide on a school bus that takes special education students to the Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents in Catonsville.

Karen Napolitano, spokeswoman for the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health agency, said yesterday that the accident is under investigation.

The bus has been taken out of service indefinitely.

County police inspected the bus and found the key in the ignition turned to the "off" position. The door switch was in the closed position, and investigators think it was inadvertently activated by Sienkiewicz. The switch is about 5 inches inside the door.

Sienkiewicz's children, ages 12 and 19, and her husband, Leroy, a machinist, are preparing for her funeral tomorrow.

"She liked to fish and liked the Orioles," said sister-in-law Shirley Sienkiewicz. "The family is devastated."

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