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Bus collision in Polk leaves students from Pasco Pepin Academies with minor injuries

LAKELAND — Two charter buses carrying students with disabilities from Pasco County collided Friday morning, sending 34 to a hospital with minor injuries, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The buses collided around the intersection of Rockridge and Dean Still roads in Lakeland at about 10:10 a.m., troopers said. They carried 91 children from Pepin Academies, troopers said, as well as seven adults.

The Highway Patrol gave this account:

The two late-'90s MCI buses were headed north on Rockridge Road, south of Deen Still Road, behind a 2007 Ford F-150.

Steven Collins, 43, of Lakeland was driving the Ford, which was towing a trailer.

Collins slowed to turn into a driveway, troopers said, but the trailer had defective lights.

Christopher Gasque, 53, the driver of the first bus, couldn't tell that the truck was slowing until too late and braked suddenly, troopers said.

The driver of the second bus, Michaela Stuckey, 56, didn't stop in time and drove into the rear of Gasque's bus, troopers said.

The injured students and three adults were taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center.

Pepin Academies serves students with learning- and learning-related disabilities.

Stuckey was cited for careless driving and Collins was cited for the defective lights, troopers said. The buses were operated by Support the Arts Foundation, based in Odessa, troopers said.

Contact Justin Trombly at Follow @JustinTrombly.