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The scene of an early morning school bus crash is pictured here about four miles east of the Alexandria corner on state Highway 38. (Chris Huber/Republic)
The scene of an early morning school bus crash is pictured here about four miles east of the Alexandria corner on state Highway 38. (Chris Huber/Republic)

Pickup crashes into bus; third school bus crash in Mitchell area this school year

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news Mitchell, 57301

Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

At least four students were transported to medical facilities after a pickup rear-ended a school bus near Spencer Wednesday morning.

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A white Ford pickup has collided with the back end of a bus from the Hanson School District. The crash was reported just before 8 a.m. about four miles east of the Alexandria corner on state Highway 38.

The Daily Republic interviewed the driver of the pickup at the scene. He declined to divulge his name but said he had glanced down for a cell phone call just prior to the crash.

Emergency workers tended to children on the bus.

A Hanson School District bus driver was waiting at a bus stop on Highway 38 when a white Ford pickup rammed into the rear of the large school bus.

"We've been concerned about that particular area," said Jim Bridge, superintendent of Hanson School District. "Traffic is pretty heavy on that road in the morning."

Bridge said the district talked to the state highway department about that stretch of road three or four years ago and the state put up a sign that said "School Bus Stop Ahead."

About 20 students of all ages were on the bus at the time. The bus driver was awaiting students to board the bus, but those students had yet to even cross the road to get on board.

"We're just glad no one was seriously hurt," Bridge said.

He said three students taken by ambulance and one by private transport as a precautionary measure.

The bus driver also took himself to a doctor Wednesday to get checked out, but he was mostly shaken up, Bridge said.

"He said he felt bad and he didn't know what else he could have done," Bridge said of the driver. "Luckily it wasn't worse than it was."

Bridge said the district bus drivers are pretty strict about safety on board, particularly when it comes to sitting still. However, he does admit that "kids are kids."

"But, this emphasizes why our bus drivers enforce pretty heavily to tell them to sit down," he said.

All bus drivers throughout South Dakota -- whether they are employees of a school district or are contracted employees with a bus com-pany -- are required to have a certified driver's license with a bus driver endorsement and must attend safety courses required by the state.

Drivers are also subject to random drug testing by the state.

"Not just anybody can drive a school bus," Bridge said.

This is the third school bus crash in the Mitchell area since school began Aug. 20. The first two crashes involved buses operated by Dietrich Bus Service for the Mitchell School District.

On the first day of the school year, Einar Peterson, 48, of Mitchell, was driving a bus eastbound across state Highway 37 on 259th Street, four miles south of Mitchell, when it collided with a northbound vehicle. Peterson was cited for a stop-sign violation.

The two people in the other vehicle, Janelle Reichert, 41, of Parkston, and a 14-year-old passenger, received minor cuts and bruises to their faces. Both were released from Avera Queen of Peace Hospital the day of the crash.

The other crash happened shortly before 4:30 p.m. Friday when Richard Buck, 65, of Mitchell, was driving an empty bus southbound on North Foster Street behind a semi driven by Chance Parr, 20, of Mitchell.

According to state Highway Patrol Trooper Jason Brandt, when Parr slowed down to approximately 10 mph, Buck attempted to pass going approximately 35 mph but collided with the semi's trailer, which was loaded with hay, as Parr turned left into his nearby driveway. According to Brandt, Buck told authorities he did not see the turn signal.

Buck was cited for unsafe passing. Neither driver was hurt in the crash.

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