Nephew: Ind. bus driver grieving students’ deaths


Posted on 28th September 2008 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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Date: 9/27/2008 7:38 PM

Associated Press Writer

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ The driver of a school bus struck by two dump trucks in rural northern Indiana is devastated that the four special-needs students she was taking home died in the crash, a relative said Saturday.

Debbie DuVall, 46, of Idaville, was seriously injured when the Twin Lakes School Corp. bus she was driving was struck Friday afternoon by two trucks about 70 miles north of Indianapolis.

Her nephew, Ryan DuVall of Fort Wayne, said Saturday that his aunt remained in intensive care but that her injuries were not life-threatening.

He said she was alert and conscious when she arrived at the hospital and was grief-stricken when told that the children she was driving home had died.

“The first thing she asked about was the condition of the kids. She wanted to know how the kids were, and the news was devastating for her. They were very dear to her,” Ryan DuVall said.

“Her family is feeling blessed that she came out of this the way that she did, but at the same time our thoughts, and especially hers, are with the families.”

The four children, ages 5 to 10, lived in nearby Monticello and attended schools in Logansport that catered to their special needs, Indiana State Police said.

The victims were identified by police as 5-year-old Lauren Melin, 9-year-old Kale Seabolt, and Trevor Ingram and Tyler Geiger, both 10.

Friday’s crash occurred when a Mack dump truck swerved to avoid a motor scooter that had stopped or slowed along U.S. 24 west of Logansport. The truck clipped the 15-passenger bus, which flipped on its side and slid into the path of a second Mack truck that struck its roof.

The bus then slid into a ditch and came to rest, its front end and roof crushed.

All four students and DuVall were wearing seat belts or sitting in a child safety seat.

State police Sgt. Tony Slocum said investigators returned to the crash scene Saturday to take photographs, make measurements and scour the crash site for evidence they may have overlooked after Friday’s crash.

State police experts were examining the crushed wreckage of the bus and the two dump trucks for any mechanical problems that could have contributed to the crash, he said.

Routine toxicology tests are pending on the three drivers. The driver of the motor scooter, Raymond Gust, 59, was not tested because he was not technically involved in the crash, Slocum said.

Gust had stopped or slowed to turn into the driveway of his home on the north side of the highway just before the crash, Slocum said.

In the coming days, Slocum said, troopers will conduct additional interviews with witnesses, Gust and the truck drivers, Terry Dixon, 53, and Joe Magers, 44, both of Logansport.

When she is well enough to speak to officers, DuVall will also be interviewed.

Slocum said it’s too early to speculate on the possibility of charges in the crash. Once the report reconstructing the events that led to the crash and the various witness accounts are compiled, a Cass County prosecutor will determine whether to file charges.

“We’re not leaving any stone unturned. We owe that to the families, at least, to make sure we’ve covered all the bases,” Slocum said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

Deadly Consequences of Mixing Cell Phones and Vehicle Operation


Posted on 24th September 2008 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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Just yesterday I was driving down a busy main street when a young girl pulled across traffic in front of me, narrowly missing a car in the oncoming traffic, all the while chatting animatedly on her cell phone. Its not the first close encounter I have had, not that long ago I was rear ended by an uninsured driver who openly admitted she wasn’t paying attention because she was on the phone. We’ve all had these close encounters in the past few years and the public’s awareness of the danger of driving while talking on a cell phone is not the issue, its the awareness of just how deadly the consequences can be. There have been some very tragic consequences in the headlines recently.

On Tuesday a Florida Highway Patrol report confirmed that truck driver, Reinaldo Gonzalez of Orlanda, had been on his cell phone when he slammed into a school bus which was stopped to let off children. A stop sign and flashing lights were not enough to alert a distracted driver. A 13 year old child was killed and several injured as a result. The driver of the truck leapt to safety before the two vehicles burst into flame. The occupants of the school bus weren’t so fortunate.

This tragic accident comes on the heels of a deadly train crash in California that killed 25 people. It is suspected that texting played a role in the crash. Two teenage train buffs disclosed that they had received a text message from the engineer just a moment before the crash. No phone was found at the scene.

Whether its texting or talking, government studies confirm that distracted drivers account for nearly 8 out of 10 collisions or near-crashes. “A researcher who worked on the 2006 study, Charlie Klauer of the Virginia Tech Traffic Institute, says the crash risk was doubled when a driver looked away from the road for two seconds out of six.”

Much of the focus of studies has been on young drivers. What makes these stories newsworthy is that in both cases adults were in control of vehicles capable of deadly destruction. This escalates the problem significantly. There is a big difference between a moment of distraction in a car and a moment of distraction in a train engine or a tractor trailer. The ability to react quickly is greatly reduced. As such, both drivers in these instances had a greater obligation to be diligent in the operation of these vehicles and should be under stricter guidelines for the operation of their vehicles.