LAKE ELSINORE — A school bus collided with a Riverside County government pickup truck and careened into a culvert Monday, but the 57 high school students aboard avoided serious injury.
The truck driver was hospitalized in good condition with chest injuries after he administered first aid to others at the scene, officials said. The school bus driver and seven students were treated for minor injuries and released.
California Highway Patrol Officer Dennis Welch said the bus missed full impact with a power pole by a few inches.
Had the bus struck the pole head-on, "we would have been looking at a far more serious crash, and possible fatalities," Welch said.
The bus, driven by Tami Lauritson, 32, was traveling between 20 and 25 mph through a rural intersection when it collided with the pickup, driven by George McPherson, 39, of Lake Elsinore, Welch said. McPherson either did not observe a stop sign, or stopped and then pulled in front of the bus, Welch said. An investigation is continuing, he added.
Neighborhood resident Darlene Bettencourt, startled by the sound of the crash, said she saw McPherson jump or fall from his vehicle, reach back inside to turn off its ignition, then rush to help the students.
"He was bloody and had glass on his face, but he still ran over to help the kids," she said. "He looked pretty hurt and shocked himself."