PD: Driver didn't brake to avoid school bus

Posted at 8:06 AM, Feb 22, 2016

MOWRYSTOWN, Ohio – Investigators are trying to figure out why a driver didn't brake before running into the back of a school bus in Highland County early Monday morning.

"It's odd. There was no braking involved that we could find," said Lt. Stan Jordan of the Highway Patrol Wilmington Post.

The crash killed the driver, 54-year-old Helen M. Dean, of Sardinia, Ohio, and sent several students to hospitals with minor injuries. Dean was not wearing a seatbelt, according to the Highway Patrol.

 "You never know at this point whether it could have been a medical-type emergency with the driver or whether they could have been looking at their cell phone or doing something of that nature," Jordan said. "Those are all things we'll be exploring."

The crash happened about 7 a.m. as the Bright Local Schools bus was preparing to pick up Whiteoak students at Ohio 321 and Stringtown Road. Keith Marler, who lives nearby, said he's used to hearing the bus, but this sound was different.

 "I just heard a loud bang," said Marler.  "Looked out my window and saw the car and looked to my left and saw the bus."

Marler said he and his wife ran to the crash. "My wife was tapping on the window and didn't get any response from the driver," he said.

Three Whiteoak High School students, complaining of back and neck paid, were transported to the hospital. Two were released within hours. The Bright Schools superintendent, Ted Downing, said some parents took their students to be checked out as well.

There were 12 students on the bus. Others nearby witnessed the crash.

 "It's tragic and especially when it happens on a school bus," Downing said. "Some of them were behind it and witnessed it. Others were waiting to be picked up. That's something that will stick with them for a long time."

The bus driver, Linda S. Bellamy,  61, of Winchester, Ohio, told troopers she was slowing down when Dean's Honda Passport hit the bus. Bellamy was wearing a selt beat and was not injured. 

Bellamy is a veteran driver, Downing said.

Troopers said they didn't have any evidence of impairment, but that's one of the tests they would be doing to see what led up to the crash.