A 17-year-old girl crashed her Jeep Wrangler into the back of a South Whidbey school bus Thursday afternoon.
None of the students on the bus or the driver were injured.
The crash happened on Maxwelton Drive, about a mile south of Highway 525. Bus driver Bob Hackler was slowing down to stop and let students off the bus, just around a curve on the 50 mph county road.
“He was stopping and said it felt like a pop,” said Dan Poolman, the assistant superintendent of business and transportation for the South Whidbey School District. “Kids said it felt like a pothole.”
The teen driver had failed to stop in time and rear-ended the bus. One of the school district’s newer vehicles, purchased in 2010, the yellow bus had minor scratches to its bumper and its rear “Unlawful to pass when red lights flash,” sign was bent on the lower right corner. The Jeep’s hood had folded up, making a teepee over the engine with some damage to the grill. Pieces of the Jeep’s front end lay scattered behind the bus.
“She was following behind, probably too close,” said Washington State Patrol Sgt. Bruce Maier.
Some 30 students were interviewed by Island County Sheriff’s deputies. They were then released from the dinged bus and either picked up by their parents or transferred to another school bus and taken home at 3:50 p.m.
“I was hoping this would never happen,” Poolman said. “Luckily nobody was hurt.”
The crash happened at about 3 p.m., shortly after the bus began the “giraffe” route that goes from the schools on Maxwelton Road to Cultus Bay, Sandy Hook and Possession Point.
Deputy Fire Chief Mike Cotton also had not responded to a school bus vs. car wreck on South Whidbey. In all the years South Whidbey Fire/EMS volunteer Gary Gabelein has worked with the fire district, he had never responded to a school bus-car crash, but was glad all the students and the driver were unharmed.
“Everybody’s fine,” Gabelein said. “She’s a little upset.” The driver’s name was not immediately available because she is a minor.
The teenaged driver was cited for a moving traffic infraction for following too close, and excessive speed was not believed to have been a cause for the crash.