Out-of-control school bus strikes several vehicles in Park Ridge, Niles
A crossing guard and students walk past the corner of Oakton Street and Greenwood Avenue in Park Ridge where a school bus ended up after a driver lost control of her vehicle due to a medical condition on Tuesday afternoon, causing her to drive the wrong way down Oakton Street from Oriole Avenue in Niles to Greenwood Avenue in Park Ridge. The bus did not have any children on it. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 8, 2013 6:08AM
PARK RIDGE — An unsuspecting taxi driver managed to stop a out-of-control school bus that had careened down a 1.3-mile stretch of Oakton Street in Park Ridge and Niles, striking several vehicles along the way.
Park Ridge Deputy Police Chief Lou Jogmen said a medical condition is believed to have caused the bus driver to lose control of her empty school bus as it headed west on Oakton Street near Oriole Avenue at the height of a heavy downpour around 2:30 p.m. this afternoon (Tuesday).
The bus crashed into six vehicles before it finally came to a stop just feet from Greenwood Avenue after colliding with a taxi cab that was making a right turn onto Oakton from northbound Greenwood, Jogmen said.
At least five people, including the bus driver, were transported to area hospitals, according to the Niles Fire Department. None are believed to have sustained life-threatening injuries, Jogmen said. The taxi driver was not among those who required hospitalization.
“We got very lucky no one got seriously hurt,” Jogmen said.
A preliminary investigation determined that the female bus driver swerved into the eastbound lanes of Oakton Street at Oriole and continued heading in the wrong direction all the way to Greenwood. The bus is believed to have struck a car at Prospect Avenue, sending the car into an attached garage at the southeast corner of Oakton and Prospect, causing extensive damage to both the vehicle and the garage.
Liad Shlomo, who was working at Yogli Mogli, 8200 W. Oakton St., at the time of the incident, saw the car’s engine burst into flames “for about two or three minutes.” The driver, he said, was able to exit the vehicle and walk across the street to the yogurt shop.
“He just said that the bus hit him head-on and kept going,” Shlomo said.
Several bricks were knocked out of the front of the garage when the rear of the vehicle crashed into it. Park Ridge city inspectors deemed the garage unfit for occupancy.
“No one was at home and everyone’s safe,” said Kathy Hirsch whose mother owns the house.
After colliding with the car at Prospect, the bus then hit a green mini van about one block west, near the entrance to Jefferson School in Niles.
“The bus never stopped. Everyone was so amazed,” said Dr. Lori Luksha whose dental practice is located just feet away, at 8222 W. Oakton St. on the Niles side of the road.
“The bus just kept going like nothing happened,” added Diane Garay, the office’s receptionist.
The driver of the mini van, as well as the driver of the car that had been pushed into the nearby garage, both came inside the dental office as they waited for police and paramedics to arrive. The van’s driver was covered in pieces of broken glass, Garay observed.
“They were lucky, considering the condition their cars were in,” she said.
Three more vehicles — a taxi cab, a tan Mazda sedan and a blue Honda minivan — sustained heavy damage after they came in contact with the out-of-control bus at Cumberland Avenue, just outside Emerson Middle School. Hundreds of pieces of what had been the front end of the minivan lay scattered across all four lanes of Oakton Street.
The bus traveled several more blocks before it collided with the second taxi.
“The cab was making a right turn….If he hadn’t done that, she might have gone through the intersection and T-boned other cars,” Jogmen said.
The front of the bus was extensively damaged and the glass doors were shattered.
The bus did not have any children on it and was not associated with Park Ridge-Niles School District 64, though it drove past Emerson Middle School and Jefferson Elementary School, District 64 spokeswoman Bernadette Tramm said.
The intended destination of the bus was not immediately known.
Oakton was closed between Greenwood and Oriole for over two hours while police investigated the accident.~.