Mountain Transit talks safety after bus crash
No one was hurt when a school bus carrying 15 high-schoolers backed into a Ford Focus on Route 7 last Wednesday. Bus company Mountain Transit has a protocol it follows when incidents occur, said Manager Brian Lauziere. (Photo by Courtney Lamdin)

No one was hurt when a school bus carrying 15 high-schoolers backed into a Ford Focus on Route 7 last Wednesday. Bus company Mountain Transit has a protocol it follows when incidents occur, said Manager Brian Lauziere. (Photo by Courtney Lamdin)

No one was hurt when a school bus backed into a car on River Street last Wednesday.

While driving his after-school bus route on January 16, Frank Port, 74, overshot a left-hand turn onto Ritchie Ave. and backed up on Route 7 to correct it, hitting a sedan and earning a traffic violation in the process, Milton Police Officer Jason Porter said.

Fifteen high-schoolers were aboard the Mountain Transit bus when it collided with a 2009 Ford Focus operated by 17-year-old Jacob Stuart, police said.

Stuart apparently threw his car into reverse to avoid the crash, but the bus’ impact and slick roads sent Stuart’s car spinning across the southbound lane and into a ditch, police investigation revealed.

Port told police he didn’t see the white car behind him when he checked his mirrors. It was snowy on Wednesday, and the bus windows were coated in sprayed sand and salt, Porter said.

Brian Lauziere, manager of Mountain Transit who arrived on scene after police, said his employees actively brush off debris, but it can be hard to keep up in winter.

Traffic was backed up on Route 7 for about an hour after a school bus backed into a Ford Focus, sending the sedan across the southbound lane of traffic and into a ditch. No one was hurt in the collision, police said. (Photo by Courtney Lamdin)

Traffic was backed up on Route 7 for about an hour after a school bus backed into a Ford Focus, sending the sedan across the southbound lane of traffic and into a ditch. No one was hurt in the collision, police said. (Photo by Courtney Lamdin)

“Unfortunately, circumstances weren’t in Frank’s favor,” Lauziere said. “The worst thing is a little bit of snow mid-morning, and the state goes and puts the junk down on the highway … All that spray on the back, it is tough.”

When police arrived, Porter issued Port a ticket for improper backing on a public highway. The penalty includes a $240 fine and two points on Port’s license, police said.

The driver aided police in identifying the students and verifying they were uninjured, Porter said. Some students left with parents who arrived on scene, and others boarded a second Mountain Transit bus dispatched to complete the after-school route, he said.

Stuart’s Ford sustained more than $3,000 in damage, police said.

Lauziere said Port should have instead turned around in CVPS Park or another safe place. The manager said Port is aware of his mistake and sincerely regrets it.

“He takes full ownership. He’s not putting the blame on anyone but himself,” Lauziere said.

Mountain Transit has a recertification process for drivers involved in incidents on the road, Lauziere said. Port watched seven training videos overnight on Wednesday, and in between his morning and afternoon routes Thursday, he got behind the wheel for a 75-minute road evaluation with Mountain Transit’s safety trainer.

“Safety is our No. 1 priority because of the precious cargo we have, so we don’t take things lightly by all means,” Lauziere said.

A veteran driver with 13 years driving bus, five with Mountain Transit, Port had no prior incidents, Lauziere said. Wednesday’s was the second for Mountain Transit this school year and the first that was the company’s fault. A motorist rear-ended a bus near the Exit 16 Interstate-89 on-ramp in Colchester earlier this year, Lauziere said.

The company’s 92 buses lodged 1.3 million miles last year.

“When you start doing that kind of mileage, your average is going to go up on the incidents that do happen,” Lauziere said.

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