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SUV driver killed, 17 students and their driver injured in Pasco bus crash

HOLIDAY — Dana Hamilton lives off Anclote Boulevard and, about 8:30 Wednesday morning, heard something horrific.

"It sounded like a bomb going off," Hamilton told Bay News 9, a coverage partner with the St. Petersburg Times.

Hamilton, 66, ran outside.

"Call 911," he yelled to his wife. "It's a school bus."

A 2000 Isuzu Trooper headed east on Anclote had crossed the center line and crashed head-on into a Pasco school bus that had 38 students going to Paul R. Smith Middle School.

"There was smoke everywhere, everybody was screaming and crying," 12-year-old Brandon Schaediger told Bay News 9. After he helped other students off the bus, he saw the Isuzu was crushed "like a tin ball."

The driver of the SUV, 41-year-old Tina Marie Hawkins of Holiday, was taken to Bayfront Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The bus driver, 44-year-old Jennie Esther Smith of Port Richey, remains in serious condition at St. Joseph's Hospital.

Pasco schools spokeswoman Summer Romagnoli said 17 students were taken to a hospital with minor injuries, mostly scrapes and neck pain.

The collision's impact drove the front end of the bus down, popping the back of the bus into the air. D'Angelo Bryant, 12, slammed his knee on the seat in front of him. "When I woke up, when my eyes finally opened, I was, like, getting up from the ground," he told Bay News 9.

The crash shut down Anclote Boulevard, east of Industrial Boulevard, for a couple of hours.

Hamilton said he went in the bus after the crash to check on the bus driver. He said she kept saying: "There was nothing I could do. She came over and hit me."

He said the kids were shaken up. He said he couldn't feel a pulse on Hawkins. It was "heartbreaking," he said.

Sgt. Larry Kraus, spokesman for the FHP, said the agency is investigating the crash and trying to find out why Hawkins swerved into oncoming traffic.

"We don't know the exact reason," Kraus said.

"We may never know."

Times staff writer Danny Valentine contributed to this report. Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

SUV driver killed, 17 students and their driver injured in Pasco bus crash 02/02/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 2, 2011 8:53pm]
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