An investigation found Wilrick A. Woods, the 60-year-old driver at the wheel of a school bus that crashed into an SUV Monday morning, at fault for the crash, which caused severe injuries to a woman and lesser injuries to two children and to Woods himself.
It was one of the rare crashes involving school buses this year, but the most severe since a 22-year-old woman was killed in a crash with a school bus on Ravenwood Drive in January 2015. Neither the school bus driver nor the woman were at fault in that crash. The man who rear-ended the woman’s car, fatally catapulting her into the path of the bus, was initially cited for careless driving, but all charges against him were later dismissed.
The investigation was carried out by the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office. Woods was cited for careless driving and issued a citation and fine of $166. The crash, however, caused several injuries and $10,000 in damages, according to police reports.
Woods is currently on administrative leave pending the conclusion of the school district’s investigation. Woods has been driving for the district for six years. “Other than a paperwork error on DOTs end,” a district spokesman said, referring to the Department of Transportation, “he has had a clean driving record for the six years he has been employed with us.”
Woods was driving an 84-passenger, 2007 Bluebird bus that costs $144,000 new, going east on Royal Palms Parkway at 6:30 Monday morning, before sunup. He had just picked up a 15-year-old Buddy Taylor Middle School student, who was the lone passenger on the bus. Woods had gone into the turning lane to make a left onto Rymfire Drive.
Kimberly A. Pinnock, 31, a resident of Palm Coast’s R-Section, was driving a Dodge Durango west on Royal Palms. She had two passengers: children, ages 10 and 6.
Woods told the investigator that another bus had been stopped in the westbound right turn lane on Royal Palms, and that he did not see Pinnock’s car coming his way because of that,
A witness was stopped at the stop sign on Rymfire, waiting to make a right onto Royal Palms, and told the investigator that the school bus “turned left into the path” of Pinnock, who had “no time to react.” The Durango struck the school bus almost head-on. The fronts of both vehicles were severely damaged. Pinnock was pinned in the car and had to be extracted by rescuers. She suffered “several long bone fractures,” according to the sheriff’s office’s crash report. She was taken to Halifax hospital in Daytona Beach. The two children in the car were taken to Florida Hospital Flagler, as was Woods. The student aboard the bus was not injured, and was in class at Buddy Taylor later that morning.
The two witnesses in the bus stopped in the westbound lane of Royal Palms told the investigator that they did not see the crash but heard it. The driver had been focused on the car on Rymfire at the stop sign, because the car was preventing the bus driver from making that turn.
School buses are equipped with video surveillance. The investigating deputy–Scott Vedder–reviewed the footage, which was “ppr” because of the low light, but he was able to observe Pinnock’s Durango approaching the intersection in three of the four camera views, her headlights activated, which would have made it difficult for drivers in the opposite direction to miss. Woods, the report concludes, “clearly violates the right of way of” Pinnock, who “did not appear to be traveling at a rate of speed higher than allowed.”
Vedder notes that “video was not released by School Board due to the faces of juveniles visible and they do not have the capability to edit.” In fact, the school district is required to release the footage upon request: the inability to edit–difficult to grasp in a district that prides itself on technology and boasts of multi-million dollar equipment–may not be used as a pretext to suppress a public record. The district has been having difficulties complying with the state’s public record law recently.