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April 16, 2013
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CCSD bus crash ruled an accident

A school bus accident on Friday did not result in any serious injuries or citations for the driver, according to the Nevada Highway Patrol.

The Churchill County School District bus slid off Testolin Road between Lazy Heart Road and Union Lane at about 1:30 p.m. and into an irrigation ditch. The bus was carrying three children ages 9-13 plus the driver, Susan Taddo, 58.

According to NHP Trooper Trent Barnes, the vehicle nearly came to a complete stop on the shoulder when the bus approached two trucks from West Coast Arborists. The bus was travelling northbound on the dirt road and veered to the right to avoid the trucks, Churchill County School District interim Superintendent Bus Scharmann said.

Barnes said Taddo was not cited, although a ticket may be issued at a later time. Barnes added Taddo was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“There was no reckless behavior,” he said. “The bus almost came to a complete stop.”

Scharmann, meanwhile, said the veteran bus driver was heartbroken over the accident and refused medical treatment.

The three children were transported to Banner Churchill Community Hospital and treated for minor injuries. CCSD students attend a half-day of classes on Fridays.

Once the bus veered, the loose dirt gave out and the bus fell 90 degrees into the ditch about 100 feet from nearby residence. The ditch, however, only had about 6 inches of water.

The WCA crew of foreman Temo Lopez, Travis Hettinger and Michael Wesner jumped into the ditch to assist the children and Taddo.

“We were passing each other and it got too far over,” Hettinger said. “My heart stopped. We pulled up, jumped out and tried to get that emergency door open.”

Lopez, 40, Hettinger and Wesner, both 28, and all of Fallon, said the accident was shocking.

Lopez has an elementary-aged son who attends E.C. Best and said his son was all that went through his mind as he jumped into the ditch.

“The kids were OK until they got up (on the road) and it all of sudden hit them,” Lopez said. “They started crying. I have a kid who rides the school bus and it freaked me out.”

Hettinger and Wesner said it took the men about 5 minutes to pry open the back door. Scharmann and McAfee said the door may have been jammed due to the force of the bus crashing into the ground.

The three men and Scharmann said the lack of water in the ditch was fortunate. They said it appeared the irrigation waterway released water a day or two before and may have carried up to 6 feet of water earlier in the week.

Nevertheless, once the men busted the door open, they took the children to safety. Taddo, meanwhile, was able to wriggle free from her seat belt, according to Hettinger.

NHP Area Lieutenant Andy McAfee reported Taddo said she may have “unnecessarily moved” too far to the right as the WCA trucks came closer.

Numerous ambulances, Churchill County Sheriff’s deputies and fire crews from Naval Air Station Fallon arrived on the scene.

“She’s physically OK,” Scharmann said of Taddo. “She’s pretty upset she let this happen.”

Taddo was recognized in July 2012 by CCSD trustees for winning the conventional bus category during the 34th annual Road-eo in Reno.

She nearly won the Top Gun award presented to the driver who compiles the most points from each of the three categories. Taddo is in her third year with CCSD after previously driving transit buses to assist special needs students for a school district in California.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Apr 17, 2013 03:12PM Published Apr 16, 2013 06:24PM Copyright 2013 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.