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One pickup hits PSTA bus in Clearwater; another slams car into school bus in Dunedin

A car stopped for a school bus was rear-ended by a pickup on Belcher Road south of Curlew on Tuesday afternoon. Rescuers had to cut off the top of the car.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

A car stopped for a school bus was rear-ended by a pickup on Belcher Road south of Curlew on Tuesday afternoon. Rescuers had to cut off the top of the car.

Shortly after noon Tuesday, a distracted pickup driver hit a Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority bus in south Clearwater that sent 10 bus passengers to area hospitals with minor injuries, authorities say.

About an hour and a half later, a Pinellas school bus was involved in a crash with a car and a pickup in Dunedin, sending three people to area hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries. None of the five students from Dunedin High School or the bus driver were injured.

"It all happened really fast," said Brian Boegershausen, 16, one of the students on the school bus. "It was pretty bad."

The northbound school bus stopped on Belcher Road and Highland Woods Drive to let a student off. Its stop sign was out and its red lights were blinking.

The driver of a greenish color Nissan Sentra stopped just behind the bus but one lane over on the four-lane road. But the driver of the dark Toyota Tacoma pickup did not.

The truck pummeled the car, sending it spinning into the bus.

Dunedin Fire and Rescue had to cut off the roof of the Nissan to get to the driver and a passenger who were trapped inside. Both drivers and the Nissan passenger were taken to area hospitals, said Sgt. Jim Bordner of the Pinellas Sheriff's Office. Their names were not released Tuesday.

Eric Allen, Dunedin's assistant principal, rushed to the scene when he got the call about the accident at about 2 p.m. to make sure the students were okay.

By 3 p.m., traffic resumed as normal.

The crash involving the PSTA bus happened at Roosevelt Boulevard and Alma Avenue. It closed the center and right lanes of Roosevelt for about 90 minutes.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, pickup driver Matthew V. Phillips, 25, was traveling east in the far right lane of Roosevelt when he looked down for a moment and failed to notice that the bus in front of him had stopped to let a passenger off.

Phillips was unable to switch lanes in time and hit the left rear of the bus. His Ford F-450 kept going and ended up in front of the bus, where the two vehicles collided again.

Phillips and his passenger, 22-year-old Christopher Farrar, both of Oldsmar, sustained minor injuries but did not need to be hospitalized.

Bus driver Christopher Tramel, 49, of St. Petersburg also suffered minor injuries but did not go to the hospital.

The Highway Patrol did not release the names of the bus riders but said all injuries appeared to be minor. Damage estimates include about $10,000 for the truck and $3,000 for the bus.

The center and right lanes reopened at 1:40 p.m.

One pickup hits PSTA bus in Clearwater; another slams car into school bus in Dunedin 02/17/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 17, 2009 9:19pm]
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