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Monday, September 26, 2011

Weston Schools Super ‘Grateful’ to First Responders

By James Lomuscio

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Sophia Piscitell: “glass just flew kind of across the bus.” WestportNow.com photo from Cablevision News-12.

Weston Schools Superintendent Colleen A. Palmer said today she wanted “to extend heartfelt thanks to Weston and Westport” first responders who treated eight children for minor injuries this morning after the school bus they were in struck a low hanging branch on Lyons Plains Road in Westport.

When the First Student, Inc. bus hit the branch around 8:15 a.m. near Tuck Lane, three of the dozen door-side windows shattered, shooting beaded safety glass in to the bus and onto the children, according to Dave Lustberg, Weston’s transportation coordinator.

A total of 36 Weston Hurlbutt Elementary School and Weston Intermediate School children had been on the bus that skirts the Westport border on its rounds, Lustberg said.

“She (the bus driver) stepped on the brake and the glass just flew kind of across the bus,” third grader Sophia Piscitell told Cablevision News-12. She said she was sitting under a window in the back that broke.

Following the accident, Westport and Weston police closed Lyons Plains Road between Riverfield and Coleytown Roads for about an hour.

Lustberg added that as the eight injured children were treated by Westport and Weston EMS crews in the parking lot of the Unitarian Church, another school bus came to transport the uninjured children to school. According to a Westport EMS statement, the injuries included scrapes, abrasions, and minor contusions

Initially it was thought that one of the injured children would have to be transported to the hospital, Palmer said, but the parents declined.

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Colleen A. Palmer: “All of us will have to be cautious.” Contributed photo

In a statement sent to Weston parents, Palmer said she was surprised at the children’s demeanor following the accident.

“Any time there is a bus accident of any kind, it can prove very upsetting for the children on board,” she said.

“When I arrived at the site of the accident this morning, I was struck by the fact that most of our students were in good spirits and asking if they go could go to school. Day in and day out, your children amaze me.”

“All of us will have to be cautious,” Palmer said, noting that Hurricane Irene in late August compromised a number of trees.

Her warning was echoed by Assistant Westport Fire Chief John Plofkin, Jr, who. said, “The public is reminded to keep an eye out for low hanging branches and trees that still exist, as a result of Hurricane Irene, which affected our area a few weeks ago.”

Lustberg said the bus was transported to the company bus yard in Danbury for examination and repairs, and that the accident remains under investigation.

Exactly how the accident occurred was not immediately known. The bus driver said the branch hit the bus, but it was unclear whether it fell on the vehicle or was already on the ground.

“The district will monitor the accident and provide additional information as appropriate,” Palmer said.

“We are just grateful this is considered a minor accident at this point,” she added.

Palmer also praised the administrators of both Weston schools, saying that upon hearing of the accident, they immediately contacted all of the parents.

She also praised Westport and Weston EMS, police and fire units, representatives of the bus company and her own district’s transportation department, “all of whom responded within minutes of the call of the accident.”

“Our students safety remains the most critical goal of our district,” she said.

Today’s accident occurred not far from where a Westport school bus carrying 23 students from Coleytown Elementary School went off the road on Lyons Plains Road in Weston on Nov. 19, 2010, striking a tree and ending down a gully in the woods. (See WestportNow Nov. 19, 2010

None of the students and school bus monitor appeared to suffer any major industries, but the driver was injured and had to be removed on a stretcher.

After a lengthy investigation, police arrested the driver, James Torti, 47, of Bridgeport, who they said dozed off at the wheel. He was charged with reckless endangerment, reckless driving, and failure to maintain a proper lane. (See WestportNow March 4, 2011)


Posted 09/26/11 at 08:26 PM


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