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Bus Crash Injures 4 Students in Maine

Farmington, Maine -- Four middle and high school students were taken to the hospital with minor injuries after the bus they were on Tuesday afternoon collided with a tractor-trailer on a slick stretch of U.S. Route 2.

There were 14 students from Mt. Blue Regional School District 9 on the bus when it was hit around 2:50 p.m. at the intersection of High Street and Farmington Falls Road (U.S. Route 2), police Officer William Tanner said.

The four students taken by ambulance to Franklin Memorial Hospital had minor cuts and bruises. They ranged in age from 12 to 18 and were able to walk off the school bus to get into the ambulances after the crash, he said.

Tanner believes slick road conditions caused the crash. The school bus had its yellow caution lights on and was stopping to drop off a student when it was struck head-on by the tractor-trailer, which was loaded with logs and swerved to avoid hitting a pickup truck before the collision, Tanner said.

Emergency responders also assessed the 10 other students, found them unhurt and released them to parents who had rushed to the scene, Tanner said. Three of the students were taken home in another school bus.

Tanner spoke with every student on the bus immediately after the crash. He described them later as being shaken up, but in good spirits.

Just before the crash, the bus driver, Gerard Simard, 71, of Jay, had stopped at a stop sign on High Street and was turning right onto Farmington Falls Road to make a routine drop-off near the intersection, Tanner said.

An oncoming pickup truck, headed east on Farmington Falls Road, stopped for the bus's yellow caution lights and the tractor-trailer behind the truck didn't stop in time, sliding on the icy road before veering across the center line and smashing into the bus, Tanner said.

The collision sent the bus skidding backwards nearly 30 feet, leaving the windshield cracked and most of the flat frontend heavily dented, Tanner said.

The tractor-trailer driver, Michael Matheny, 39, of Barberton, Ohio, told police he intentionally swerved across the center line to avoid hitting the truck and couldn't stop the rig before hitting the bus, Tanner said.

State police investigators estimated the tractor-trailer, which is owned by F.W. Madden Co., of Akron, Ohio, was traveling no faster than 30 mph before the crash, which occurred in a 45 mph zone, Tanner said.

Simard banged his leg in the crash and refused treatment at the scene, which is a short distance from downtown Farmington. Matheny, who refused to comment at the scene, was unhurt, Tanner said.

Tanner does not expect to issue tickets related to the crash, saying Matheny was traveling too fast for the road conditions, but not fast enough to warrant a ticket. There were no issues with poor driving records, licenses or vehicle inspections for either driver, he said.

The school bus did not have its red stop sign and lights engaged at the time of the crash. If it had, other laws may have applied, Tanner said.

Superintendent Michael Cormier said the bus was carrying students from the district's middle school and high school, both in Farmington. Tanner and Cormier did not know details about the students' hometowns, saying all parents were notified Tuesday afternoon.

Cormier would not discuss safety features of the school bus involved in the crash. Tanner said the school bus has safety harnesses on a small number of seats for children who are younger than those riding during the crash.

School district officials plan to keep in contact with parents of students involved in the crash, Cormier said.

Two investigators from the Maine State Police division dedicated to commercial driving issues assisted at the scene. Fire and ambulance services from Farmington also responded to the crash, which closed the section of road for more than an hour.

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