School bus crash caught on tape

January 28, 2008 9:13:43 PM PST
Five vehicles, including a school bus, crashed in the Lawcrest section this afternoon.In an exclusive interview with Action News, bus driver Sarah McNeil says as her bus careened towards the gas pumps, she thought she was headed for the big house in the sky. Miraculously, she says, the pumps didn't blow and she and the students on board lived to tell about their harrowing ordeal.

"I'm still shaking. Everything happened so fast," said McNeil.

Surveillance footage obtained exclusively by Action News captured the dramatic scene as it unfolded at the intersection of Rising Sun and Godfrey Avenues.

Police say it began when the driver of a Hyundai Sonata blew a red light crashing into the bus. McNeil was trying frantically to maintain control of her bus, carrying a bus assistant and six students from Carson Valley School in Flourtown.

"I was trying to keep from hitting the cars, keeping from hurting anybody," she said.

But the bus rolled right over the hood of a Mitsubishi sedan being driven by Joe Lewis of Frankford.

"It was scary. I saw my whole life flash in front of my face. If it wasn't for the seat belt, I would have been dead," said Lewis.

The bus then headed for the gas pumps, where 25-year-old Samuel Green of Logan had just finished pumping gas and was about to get back in his car.

"It hit the gas pump and I thought it was going to blow. I knew if it blew up, I wasn't really going to get away, so I just tried my best," said Green.

As the bus crashed into the gas pumps and Green's car, the students on board ran through the back door to get far away as possible. Everyone near the scene scattered.

"You know how they show in the movies. I thought the gas pumps were going to blow, so everybody just got out of their cars and started running," said Lewis.

McNeil feared the worse, but prayed for a miracle.

"I thought my bus was going to explode. That's why I hurried up and switched off the ignition. I'm just thankful. I'm just so thankful," she said.

Police say if safety mechanisms designed to shut off the gas flow when somebody crashes into the pumps were not working properly, there could have been a disaster.

"The safeties in the gas pumps worked well. That's why there was no leakage or a fire," said Chief Inspector Scott Small.

For that, a lot of people are grateful. The six students and the bus driver were treated for minor injuries at area hospitals.