BANGOR, Maine — Two children were injured Wednesday morning when a woman who wasn’t paying attention to the road slammed her SUV into the rear of a stopped school bus.
The bright yellow school bus with flashing lights and a folding red stop sign out was stopped to pick up a student on outer Union Street. Twenty-two children were on the bus that was heading to Downeast School on its morning run.
Lindsey Ouellette, 18, of Hermon, drove her 2000 Jeep SUV into the rear of the bus at around 8:30 a.m., and “the impact was enough to send two children to hospital,” Bangor police Sgt. Bob Bishop said Wednesday afternoon.
“They were in the back,” he said. The names of the children were not released, but “the youngest is 5, and the older one is 8,” Bishop said.
Six-year-old Megan Johnston stepped onto the bus just seconds before Ouellette’s SUV smashed into the back end of it, her grandfather said.
“She had just got into the bus and that’s when the lady hit her bus,” Bud Bruns, he said Wednesday morning. “I was turning to go, and saw it out of the corner of my eye.”
Megan, a first-grader, wasn’t hurt in the crash, he said.
Both injured children were taken by ambulance to Eastern Maine Medical Center, then released. Ouellette was taken to St. Joseph Hospital for a broken leg, he said.
“Driver inattention caused the impact,” Bishop said. She was “reaching for something in the vehicle,” he said, but was not able to identify what the item was.
The accident happened in front of the Greenworks, which Bruns owns, and is where his granddaughter catches the bus in the morning.
Ouellette, who was wearing a seat belt, didn’t attempt to stop, and the police investigation has determined that she was travelling “at least 30 miles per hour on impact,” Bishop said.
“There was no squealing tires, so she hit it full bore,” Bruns said. “The SUV was … destroyed. The air bags went off.”
The SUV had a reported $15,000 in damage and the bus had rear-end damage amounting to between $4,000 and $6,000.
After the crash, Ouellette “was crying, and she said she couldn’t move her leg,” Bruns said.
The uninjured students on the bus were taken in another bus to their elementary school.
“It was a mess,” said Bruns, who helped to direct traffic after the crash.
Bangor Police Department’s accident reconstruction team was at the scene investigating, and the Penobscot County District Attorney’s Office will review the case to see whether charges will be filed against Ouellette, Bishop said.
“The kids are very lucky, the bus driver is very lucky and Lindsey Ouellette is lucky it’s not worse,” he said.