Driver injured, bus unharmed

A 16-year-old girl injured in a car-bus crash had to be airlifted off South Whidbey Monday morning.

But the accident — which involved an Island Transit bus bound for Langley on Maxwelton Road — did not injure anyone else, despite its seriousness.

According to the Washington State Patrol, at about 10:40 a.m., a 1965 Plymouth Valiant 200 driven by the Langley 16-year-old crossed over the centerline on Maxwelton Road while headed toward South Whidbey High School. The trooper investigating the accident, Phil Thoma, said the driver lost control on a curve and flipped the car nearly 180 degrees before it slammed into the front end of an oncoming transit bus. The impact then pushed the car into a tree alongside the road.

Rescuers from Fire District 3 responded to the accident. Upon arriving, they found the driver of the Valiant to be unconscious. She was removed from the vehicle, stabilized in a Whidbey General Hospital ambulance, then was transported to a waiting medical evacuation helicopter that landed on the football field at South Whidbey High School. She was then airlifted to Harborview.

According to Fire District 3 officials, the decision to fly the girl to Harborview rather than taking her to Whidbey General Hospital in Coupeville was made based on her condition. In the 45 minutes following the accident, she never fully regained consciousness, which led paramedics and EMTs on the scene to suspect that the girl had head or internal injuries.

None of the three passengers on the transit bus, nor the driver, were injured in the collision.

Trooper Thoma said that while the accident remains under investigation, he will be issuing a citation to the 16-year-old driver. He said the driver of the Island Transit bus, 65-year-old Benjamin Dial, was not at fault in the accident.

Due to wet road conditions, Thoma said there is not enough evidence to determine how fast the Valiant was traveling at the time of the accident. Thoma said he is also trying to determine whether the driver was wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident. He said the Valiant was equipped only with lap belts.

After the accident, passengers aboard the Island Transit bus were transferred to another bus sent from Coupeville to take over the route. The bus involved in the collision was driven to the South Whidbey school bus barn on Maxwelton Road to have its brakes checked.

Frank Vande Werfhorst, operations manager for Island Transit, said the bus driver, Dial, was given a day off to recover from the shock of the accident. He said Island Transit does not yet have a repair cost estimate for the bus.

The Valiant 200 was totaled in the collision.

Thoma refused to identify the girl driving the car based on her juvenile status. Consequently, no information about her condition was available from Harborview, which requires a patient name before giving out medical information.

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