An elementary school bus collided with a pickup truck in Dana Point Wednesday, critically injuring the 17-year-old truck driver and causing injuries to three of the 22 children on the bus, authorities said.
A California Highway Patrol investigator said one of the drivers apparently ran a red light at the intersection of Street of the Golden Lantern and La Cresta Drive, but he did not know which one, pending the questioning of more witnesses.
According to state records, bus driver Barbara Squires, 32, of Mission Viejo was driving on a license suspended after being involved in two 1987 accidents. Squires, who was unhurt in Wednesday’s accident at 3:38 p.m., is 4 months pregnant, officials for the Capistrano Unified School District said.
The driver of the pickup, Scott Nelson of Dana Point, was unconscious and listed in critical condition late Wednesday at Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center in Mission Viejo, hospital and CHP officials said.
2 Treated for Minor Injuries
Two of the three injured children, identified as Rebecca Stauch, 5, and Stephanie Andre, 6, both of Dana Point, were treated for minor injuries at San Clemente Hospital and later released, authorities said.
A third youngster on the bus, identified as Mathew Slater, 5, of Laguna Niguel, was listed in fair condition at the Mission Viejo hospital, where he was taken by county Fire Department paramedics after briefly losing consciousness. He was expected to be held overnight for observation.
Paramedics checked all 19 other students aboard the bus for injuries but found none, they said.
CHP Officer Bruce Lian said the bus had just picked up a load of students from Richard H. Dana Elementary on La Cresta Drive and was headed eastbound on La Cresta to begin its route of stops when the accident occurred.
The bus collided broadside with Nelson’s yellow Nissan pickup, which was southbound on Golden Lantern, Lian said.
CHP spokesman Mike Lundquist said that no citations were issued, pending further investigation, and that there were no signs of intoxication.
According to state Department of Motor Vehicles records, Squires, who has been a driver for the school district for 3 years, has been driving with a license suspended since June 30, 1987. Terms of her suspension allow her to drive only in the course of her employment, DMV records show.
The suspension followed her involvements in accidents on March 19, 1987, in Dana Point and an April 26, 1987, accident in Anaheim, DMV records indicated. Details of the accidents were not immediately available.
Nelson’s record shows no traffic citations, DMV officials said.
Squires declined comment on the accident at the scene of the collision.
Doug Kramer, principal of 850-student Dana School, referred inquiries about Squires’ driving record to the district’s public information office, which was closed late Wednesday.
After the accident, Dana School officials quickly arranged for another bus to take the unhurt students to stops near their homes. Craig Richter, an assistant principal at Dana who rode on that bus, said the children’s spirits were high despite the crash.
“One kid was even laughing and joking while helping the (second) bus driver find the bus stops,” Richter said. “Some of the kids were out playing after they were let off.”
Back at the school, Kramer telephoned concerned parents to let them know that their children were all right. Kramer said he will ask a school psychiatrist today to visit classrooms so children involved can talk about the accident.
County fire officials dispatched three ambulances, three engines and a fire truck to the scene. Traffic on the south county thoroughfare was tied up for about an hour.
Looking at the badly crumpled right side of the pickup truck, Lian marveled that the accident did not result in more injuries.
“If the bus looked like that,” he said, gesturing to the truck, “there would have been a lot more people hurt.”