Pa. Bus Driver Wrecks, Leaves Before Ambos Arrive

Pa. Bus Driver Wrecks, Leaves Before Ambos Arrive

News Nov 14, 2012

Nov. 14--A Dushore area woman has been suspended without pay after the school bus she was driving was involved in an accident earlier this week in Wilmot Township, the Wyalusing schools superintendent said on Tuesday.

Penny Gorens, 47, was driving the 72-passenger bus west on Cotter Road at approximately 4 p.m. Monday when it veered off the left side of the road and traveled down an embankment into a hay field, Wyalusing schools Superintendent Chester Mummau said.

The accident occurred just after the bus had turned onto Cotter Road from Burke Road.

Some of the 40 students who were on the bus, who were from the Wyalusing School District, received scrapes and bruises, he said. And several parents took their children to be evaluated at the Emergency Room at Memorial Hospital in Towanda.

"To my knowledge, no student was kept overnight" at the hospital, Mummau said.

Ambulances were dispatched to the scene, but Gorens had driven the bus from the scene, with students on it, before they arrived, according to Mammau.

Therefore, emergency medical personnel in the ambulances were not able to evaluate the students, he said.

"We're very disappointed" that Gorens did not wait to have the children evaluated at the scene, he said.

But Matt Wright, the regional manager for Student Transportation of America Inc., which is the company that Gorens works for, said that Gorens was unaware that any ambulances had been dispatched to the scene.

In Gorens' best judgment, none of the students on the bus had an injury that required immediate attention or that was serious, according to Wright.

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"I don't think she saw that she had any injuries on hand (among the students on the bus)," Wright said.

Mummau said he went to the scene of the accident on Tuesday and saw that the embankment, which is four to five feet tall, is "pretty steep."

A number of the students on the bus, who ranged in age from kindergarten to the 12th grade, used cell phones to call their parents when the accident occurred, and some of the parents who lived in the area arrived at the accident scene and retrieved their children, he said.

But the rest of the children were driven on the school bus by Gorens to their homes, he said.

Gorens "was able to drive the bus across the hay field and back onto the gravel road (Cotter Road), with no assistance," Mummau said.

"We are unsure as to the cause of the accident and it is still under investigation by the state police," Mummau said.

Mummau said he did not know who summoned the ambulances. It could have been students on the bus using their cell phones, or it could have been a neighbor, he said.

On Tuesday morning, seven Wyalusing School District students, who had bumps and bruises after riding on the bus, went to see a school nurse, Mummau said. One of the seven, who attends Wyalusing Valley Junior/Senior High School, complained of a headache, he said. None of the seven was subsequently transported to a hospital.

Mummau said he did not know if any parents had taken their children to a hospital other than Memorial Hospital. Mummau said that if they had, he had not heard of any having to stay overnight at the hospital.

Three of the students who had been on the bus were absent from school on Tuesday, and school district officials were trying to get an update on their status, he said.

Since August 2012, Student Transportation of America has held the contract for the bus route that Gorens was driving, Mummau said. Monday was the sixth day that Gorens had driven the route, he said.

Previously, Gorens had driven school buses for a total of 14 years for the West Chester and the Pequea Valley school districts, he said.

Gorens would have needed a commercial driver's license (CDL) to drive a school bus for the Wyalusing School District, and she would have needed a good driving record to obtain and keep her CDL, he said.

Gorens' CDL "would have been suspended if she had a bad driving record," he said.

The initial reports received by the school district, which were that the bus had overturned and that students were trapped inside, were incorrect, Mummau said.

"I made the decision" to suspend Gorens from her job, Wright said.

Gorens' suspension without pay will be in effect while the investigation into the accident continues, Mummau said.

Based on additional information that will obtained through the investigation, a decision will be made on whether Gorens will be able to keep her job, Wright said.

Besides the state police, the Wyalusing School District and Student Transportation of America are investigating the accident, Wright said.

In response to Monday's accident, Student Transportation of America will be retraining its drivers to reinforce the company's policy that if they are involved in an accident, "we want to be able to have the kids checked out" for medical problems before being transported on the bus to another location, even if the driver doesn't think a serious injury has occurred, Wright said.

It needs to be determined that "each child is O.K." medically before he or she can be transported by the bus to another location, he said.

Mummau said the accident could have been much worse. He said it was lucky that the bus did not roll over.

While Gorens is not suspected to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol, she did undergo testing on Monday evening at Memorial Hospital to determine if there were drugs or alcohol in her system, Mummau said. Under state law, a school bus driver is required to undergo such testing after he or she has been in an accident, he said.

It might be two or three days before the results of the testing become available, he said.

No information about the accident was available from the state police on Tuesday.

While the school bus could be driven after the accident, it was not used on Tuesday, Mummau said. "We are awaiting a complete inspection to deem it safe before putting it back into operation," he said.

"Our guidance counselors at each building are touching base with the students who were on the bus today to reassure them and to counsel them on any concerns they have," Mummau said.

"I want to assure parents and guardians that the school district is very concerned about the safety of every student and staff member and we were as alarmed as they were when we received the initial report that the bus had rolled and students were entrapped," Mummau said. "Thankfully that was not the case, but nonetheless it was a harrowing experience for everyone involved. I would like to thank the fire department, rescue squad, State Police, and our transportation coordinator, Katy Stoddard for responding to the scene of the accident within minutes of being notified."

The Review's attempts to reach Gorens on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.

Copyright 2012 - The Daily Review, Towanda, Pa.

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The Daily Review, Towanda, Pa.
James Loewenstein
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