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11 children taken to hospital after West Seneca school bus crash

It was a parent’s nightmare – learning that the school bus carrying their child to school had been in an accident on slick, snow-covered roads as winter made a comeback.

The West Seneca school bus with 35 children on board stopped at a red light at Berg and Orchard Park roads just after 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, was about 500 feet from its destination, Allendale Elementary School, when an SUV traveling behind it slid and rear-ended it.

Eleven of the Allendale students, ranging in age from 5 to 11, were taken to Women & Children’s Hospital as a precaution and released later in the day after treatment for minor injuries.

“I’m glad that by and large, everyone is safe and sound,” West Seneca School Superintendent Mark J. Crawford said at the scene of the 8:39 a.m. collision. “It’s just an unfortunate accident.”

The driver of the SUV, whose identity was not released by West Seneca police, was cited with a traffic infraction for following too closely, said West Seneca Police Lt. Dave Szmania. That is the only charge expected to be filed. The investigation continues, he said.

The 24 other children, who did not require medical treatment, were taken to school in another bus the school district dispatched to the scene.

The collision was one of many accidents reported in the Buffalo Niagara region Wednesday morning due to slippery driving conditions – including four others at about the same time in West Seneca.

Winter returned overnight Tuesday and promises to make its presence felt over the next day or so with more snow on Thursday ahead of bitter cold on the weekend. Wednesday also saw a strong afternoon band of snow along the shoreline of Lake Ontario across Niagara County and beyond, a National Weather Service official said.

At the scene of the bus accident, Michael Kluck, acting captain of the Reserve Hose Fire Company, said, “The SUV slid into the back of the bus, which was at the red light.”

Szmania said, “Originally, when the responding officers entered the bus, about 20 kids raised their hands” indicating they were hurt.

A special response team of four emergency doctors came to the accident scene and immediately evaluated the children, deciding to send 11 to the hospital as a precautionary measure, authorities said.

Crawford could relate to the tough morning commute, since he had just driven in from his Cattaraugus County home to West Seneca before driving to the scene of the accident. “We’ve avoided the deep snow until now,” but there were slick conditions on road surfaces Wednesday, he said.

Crawford expressed gratitude to the responders and doctors who arrived quickly to help out and evaluate the school children.

The storm system and lake-effect bands of snow that snarled Wednesday’s traffic will continue to make for dicey travel well into Thursday and the evening hours.

Lake-effect snow is expected to accumulate in extreme southern Erie County and the Southern Tier, dumping 6 to 12 inches in the heaviest spots. Those areas will be in good company with the Lake Ontario shoreline, which is expected to see more lake-effect bands as well.

National Weather Service meteorologist Aaron Reynolds said that a deep arctic front will be responsible for the coming turn of wintry weather. “We have a trough over the eastern two-thirds of the United States, and that’s what the reason is that we’re much colder now,” he said. “You get little storms embedded in that trough. With the cold air and the moisture, you get lake-effect.”

But downtown Buffalo and the Northtowns should only see a scant amount of snow.

Niagara County and along the lakeshore into Orleans County won’t be so lucky. That area can expect to see 5 to 10 inches of fresh snow through Thursday, Reynolds said.

email: krobinson@buffnews.com and msommer@buffnews.com