Three Towanda students taken to hospital after bus crash
TOWANDA - Three Towanda School District students were transported to Memorial Hospital after they were injured Wednesday in a school bus accident in Monroe Township, the superintendent of schools said.
"All the information I have received leads me to believe that their injuries were minor," said Steven Gobble, superintendent of schools for the Towanda Area School District.
The accident, which occurred at approximately 7:10 a.m., involved three vehicles that were all traveling north on Route 220, according to the state police.
At the time of the accident, the school bus was stopped in the roadway, with its red lights flashing, because the bus driver was picking up a student, police said.
At that time, a Ford pickup truck, which was operated by Thomas J. Milk of New Albany, was stopped directly behind the school bus, police said.
Jacob O. Sick, 28, of Tunkhannock, who was driving a 2001 GMC Sierra pickup truck north on Route 220, failed to stop as he approached the other two vehicles, and, as a result, his vehicle rear-ended the Ford pickup truck, police said.
The Ford pickup truck was in turn pushed into the rear of the school bus, state police at Towanda said.
Milk, Sick, and the driver of the school bus, 49-year-old Lorraine D. Bolt of Monroeton, all reported that they were uninjured, police said.
The students who were injured were in the second, third, and sixth grades, according to a press release from the Towanda Area School District.
At the time of the accident, the bus, which is owned by bus contractor Kay McNeal of the Franklindale area, was transporting 14 students to school at the Towanda School District's campus, according to the state police and Gobble.
After the accident, the uninjured students were transported in another school bus to the gymnasium at the Towanda Area Elementary School, and the parents of those students were contacted by the school district and given the option of taking their children home for the day, Gobble said.
Some of the parents did take their children home, he added.
The accident occurred approximately a half-mile south of Kent Run Road, state police said.
The location where the accident occurred is a new bus stop that was established at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year, and, prior to the start of the school year, McNeal had asked the school district to have a traffic study done for the bus stop, according to Gobble and Towanda School District Business Manager Doreen Secor.
At the time, though, the school district did not take steps to have the traffic study done, Secor said.
However, on Wednesday, following the accident, Towanda School District Transportation Coordinator Shari Williams submitted a formal request to the state Department of Transportation to conduct a traffic study at the location where the accident occurred, according to the press release.
The school district is asking PennDOT to do the study because the section of Route 220 south of Monroeton, including the location of the bus stop, has a lot of curves and a lot of traffic, Secor said. The study could result in the bus stop being eliminated or moved, she said.
Traffic studies for bus stops are performed by engineers from PennDOT, who evaluate sight distances for approaching motorists, the speed limit, and other factors, Williams said.
Conducting a traffic study can be part of the process of establishing a new bus stop, Williams said. If safety concerns are raised about a particular bus stop, the school district might ask PennDOT to perform a traffic study for the bus stop, she explained.
Secor said she had "no idea" why the school district didn't try to arrange for the traffic study to be done when McNeal requested it. However, she said it is "kind of a common occurrence" for contractors to raise safety concerns about bus stops.
"We should have acted immediately" in response to McNeal's request for the traffic study, Williams said.
However, Towanda School District officials will be making sure that similar matters are handled correctly in the future, Williams said. Gobble will be reviewing concerns and procedures related to school bus safety with other Towanda School District administrators in the near future, the press release states.
When asked why the school district didn't try to get a traffic study done when McNeal requested it, Williams declined to answer and referred the question to Gobble.
However, The Daily Review was unsuccessful in contacting Gobble in the late afternoon and evening on Wednesday. Gobble's secretary, Cheryl Vaughn, said Gobble had left Wednesday afternoon to go to the PIAA wrestling championships in Hershey and therefore was technically on vacation for the rest of the week.
While the evaluation is under way, the school district will use a van to pick up and drop off the single student who uses the bus stop where the accident occurred, Secor said.
Unlike the school bus, the van will be able to pull off the road and enter a driveway to pick up and drop off the student who uses the bus stop, she said.
It is not unusual for school districts to transport students in vans, instead of school buses, she said.
McNeal declined to comment for this story.
James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.