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Four injured when SUV rear-ends school bus

The SUV rear-ends the bus at a bus stop, officials report. Both drivers and two children sustain minor injuries.

By MARY SPICUZZA
Published April 7, 2006


Susan Mousted has been warning of dangerous traffic conditions on Mitchell Ranch Road in New Port Richey for months.

"We need to do something before it's too late for someone's family," Mousted wrote in a May 2005 letter to the Times.

Then, early Thursday morning, she heard a crash. She saw a woman running toward a badly damaged SUV that had struck a school bus at a bus stop.

The 8 a.m. crash could have been much worse. There were only six children on the school bus at the time. Both drivers and a child in each vehicle were taken to the hospital with what Florida Highway Patrol called minor injuries.

"The SUV had major damage," Pasco County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Torrey Duink said.

The bus involved in the crash was transporting Seven Springs and J.W. Mitchell students ages 8-13, according to FHP. . Bus driver Salvatore Falco had stopped on Mitchell Ranch Road to pick up children at one of the first stops on his route when the SUV rear-ended the bus, district and law enforcement officials said.

Gary Sawyer, a supervisor of transportation operations for the district, said he doesn't know of any previous crashes involving school buses driven by 64-year-old Falco.

Still, Sawyer said the district plans to conduct its own investigation into the crash.

As for problems with the road itself?

"Nobody has contacted me in relation to anything on Mitchell Ranch Road," Sawyer said.

Florida Highway Patrol did give the driver of the SUV, 33-year-old Jennifer Hess, a ticket for careless driving.

Hess and her 6-year-old son, Leo, were transported to Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital with minor injuries, the FHP report said, and Falco and school bus passenger Bobby Ashley-Brandt, 13, were transported to Community Hospital with minor injuries.

Mousted believes the troubles on Mitchell Ranch Road go beyond just one driver.

"It's god-awful," she said. "People drive too fast, way too fast for a residential area."

Mousted is still hoping for speed bumps and greater traffic control on the busy street.

--Mary Spicuzza covers education in Pasco County. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6241 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6241. Her e-mail address is mspicuzza@sptimes.com

[Last modified April 7, 2006, 01:32:03]


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