Daniel Patrick Sheehan
The Morning Call
It could have been worse.
More than two dozen middle school students and a driver escaped serious injury Monday morning when an Easton Area School District bus veered off Bushkill Drive, plowed through a guardrail and headed 20 to 25 feet down a steep embankment before landing with its front end in the Bushkill Creek.
Twenty-nine students had to be rescued, and at least 13 were taken for treatment at local hospitals, but none of the injuries was believed to be serious, officials said. Police are continuing to investigate.
Quick action by police, emergency responders and school district officials averted a more serious accident, Easton police Chief Carl Scalzo said. The narrow road, with large trees lined next to a steep drop to a bike path before the creek, and a narrow shoulder that rises up a hill on the opposite side, were among factors that could have caused a more serious accident.
“Count your blessings,” he said.
The accident happened around 7:30 a.m. The school bus was heading north before crashing through a guardrail on Bushkill Drive, Easton fire Capt. Joe Brown said.
Scalzo said the bus driver, who was not identified, apparently hit an embankment that hugs the road, then moved back across the southbound lane, through the rail, down the footpath and into the creek.
“It looked like the bus driver hit the embankment, and in the correction, went across the lane and hit the guardrail,” he said.
Sgt. Kevin Krische, among the officers first to arrive, took command and quickly mobilized personnel, according to Scalzo.
“When something like that happens, it’s possible chaos,” Scalzo said, commending police and others for their quick action in removing the schoolchildren.
The accident happened in the 600 block of Bushkill Drive, between the Safe Harbor homeless shelter and the intersection of Bushkill Drive and Detrich Road, not far from the Lafayette College campus and near a bridge leading to the Karl Stirner Arts Trail.
“Everybody was out when we got there, they came out the emergency exit,” Brown said. “The couple that were injured we had to rescue with a stretcher and bring up over the wall.”
Easton schools Superintendent David Piperato said eight were taken by ambulance to St. Luke’s Hospital facilities in Wilson and Bethlehem Township, and five other students were transported by their parents for medical attention.
The remaining students were eventually released to their parents, Piperato said, while the bus driver was taken to a hospital as a precaution. He had no further information as to the extent of injuries.
Piperato said the operator was an experienced bus driver. Scalzo said she was cooperating with investigators but he and other officials said she was to be tested for drugs and alcohol as required in any crash by a commercial driver.
“I think everybody worked pretty well this morning,” Scalzo said late Monday afternoon. “Everybody did what they were supposed to do.”
Police will reconstruct the accident to try to determine the cause. Scalzo said video of the crash was provided by a vehicle following the bus.