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Boy Dies, 40 Injured as Bus Hits Stalled Truck

Times Staff Writers

A sixth-grade boy was killed and 39 other children and a bus driver were injured Friday morning when a bus taking the children on an outing crashed into the back of a stalled milk truck on Interstate 680 here, California Highway Patrol officers said.

Initial investigations showed that the bus was going between 40 and 45 m.p.h. when it hit the back of the stalled Knudsen semi-trailer milk truck about 10:30 a.m., CHP Officer Fred Martin said. The impact squashed the front of the bus back to the driver’s seat.

The boy who died, the bus driver and two other children were pinned in the wreckage at the front of the bus and had to be released with the “jaws of life” device.

Sean Purcell, 11, of Elk Grove was killed in the crash, Alameda County Deputy Coroner Mike King said.

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Martin said the crash occurred despite the frantic efforts of Carl White, 35, of Modesto, driver of the stalled milk truck, who stood 600 feet behind the vehicle, waving his arms to warn approaching traffic. The bus driver, Mark Collins, 23, apparently did not respond to the warning, however, and the truck driver “had to jump to avoid getting hit by the bus,” Martin said. “The bus continued on and struck the rear end of the truck.”

‘Bus Driver!, Bus Driver!’

Tamare Scheinuck, 12, of Elk Grove said: “I was sitting in the middle of the bus. I saw the stalled truck in front of us. A girl in front was yelling, ‘Bus driver!, bus driver!’ and he turned around to see what was wrong. Then he looked back to the road, but he couldn’t stop in time. Then we crashed, and all the seats went flying up to the front. I just fell forward.” She was uninjured.

Mark Zamzow, 12, of Elk Grove also said the driver turned around just before the crash. “We just hit the back of the truck, and everyone fell over like dominoes,” he said.

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Shattered windshield glass and plastic milk containers and crates were strewn all over the highway at the crash scene. Inside the bus, the force of the impact had thrown seats forward so that some were piled up against one another. Gym bags, clothes, thermos bottles and soft drink cans littered the seats and floor.

CHP Officer Ernie De Vaughn, the first officer to reach the scene, said that when he arrived “kids were screaming and crying.”

Two children were taken by helicopter to St. Rose Hospital in Hayward, where there is a helicopter landing pad. The children, identified as Craig Evans, 11, and Daniel Devey, 12, were in critical but stable condition, the nursing supervisor there said.

Bus Was Chartered

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Martin said a Fremont school district bus driver, Roy Plunkett, who was driving an empty bus nearby, took some of the injured children to Washington Hospital in Fremont.

Forty-three people, including the driver, were treated there, but only nine of them were admitted, hospital spokesman Al Jensen said.

Jensen said the bus driver suffered a dislocated right hip and a broken right hand and arm. All the others admitted to hospital were children--seven of them boys and two girls, Jensen said. The children suffered a variety of injuries, including broken arms and concussions, and one of them had a spinal fracture, Jensen said.

Candice Haley, nursing supervisor at Washington Hospital, said none of the victims was critically injured and all nine were in stable condition.

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The bus was taking 71 children from Florence Markoffer School, in the Elk Grove School District, and four adult supervisors, on an outing to Marriott’s Great America amusement park in Santa Clara. The bus, which is licensed to carry up to 91 passengers, was on charter from Taylor Bus Service Co. of West Sacramento.

Martin said the milk truck stalled about 8 a.m. under the Durham Street overpass, apparently with fuel-line trouble. A mechanic got it going again, but it stalled a second time a quarter of a mile farther on, and the driver was unable to get it off the highway onto the shoulder, Martin added.

This story was reported from Fremont by Saul Rubin and from Los Angeles by Leonard Greenwood.


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