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    Bus crash sends nine to hospitals

    Four of the 27 students on the school bus and all five people in the car were hospitalized after the bus tried to turn left off Indian Rocks Road.

    By ERIC STIRGUS

    © St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2001


    LARGO -- Four Largo Middle School students were hospitalized Thursday afternoon after their school bus was struck by a car at Indian Rocks and Honeysuckle roads.

    The driver of the car, a green Dodge Shadow, and its four passengers were also taken to area hospitals, officials said.

    None of the injuries was serious, authorities said, but the accident caused some anxious moments for the students, their parents and school officials.

    "It was scary," said Hope Delemeester, 13, a seventh-grader who was on the bus.

    The school bus was headed north on Indian Rocks Road at 4:40 p.m. when it tried to turn left at Honeysuckle Road, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. As the bus tried to make the turn, it collided with the southbound Dodge, Delemeester recalled.

    "We were getting ready to turn and the little green car came right into us," the student said. "I jumped right out of my seat."

    Most of the 27 students fell into each other as smoke rose from the hood of the mangled Dodge, she said.

    Delemeester used a friend's cellular phone to call her mother, who was waiting at a bus stop.

    "I called my mommy to come to the rescue," she said, allowing herself a moment of levity after spending the past half-hour worrying about her friends.

    Her mother, Debra Leone, was at Pinehurst and Indian Rocks roads waiting for the bus when the accident occurred. Her concern over the late bus turned to worry when she saw paramedics passing by. Then she saw a television news helicopter buzzing overheard.

    "You knew something was wrong," she said.

    Shortly afterward came the call from her daughter. Leone and other parents ran south on Indian Rocks Road to get to their children.

    When the parents arrived, they saw a car smashed into the passenger side of the bus.

    The Florida Highway Patrol was handling the investigation and did not have details of what happened Thursday evening.

    Six of the nine people hospitalized were taken to Largo Medical Center, where they were still being treated Thursday evening. The other three were taken to Sun Coast Hospital. The most serious injury was a fractured arm, Largo Fire Department officials said. Most of the other injuries were neck and shoulder pains, authorities said.

    The other 23 students on the bus and its driver declined medical attention, officials said.

    School officials called to the scene were initially told to respond to some unruly students on the bus.

    "We thought we were dealing with one issue and we found out we were dealing with something else," said principal Bill Cooper. "This kind of scared us."

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