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Pick-Up Rear-Ends Bunnell-Bound School Bus With 40 Students Aboard in Palm Coast’s LL Section

| February 25, 2019

The crash on Laguna Forest Trail in Palm Coast this morning. (© FlaglerLive)

The crash on Laguna Forest Trail in Palm Coast this morning. (© FlaglerLive)

A pick-up truck rear-ended a school bus that was approaching the end of its morning run in Palm Coast’s LL Section this morning, a collision one witness described as “like a bomb.”

The bus carried 40 students, 39 of whom were later transferred to another bus and taken to their destination at Bunnell Elementary. One 4th or 5th grade student was treated at the scene for 10 to 15 minutes after complaining of neck pain, but his guardian, who came to the scene, declined to have him transported to the hospital. She told paramedics she would take him to the hospital, though a district official was under the impression she was taking him home.

The driver of the pick-up truck, a Ford F-150, Susanne Gardner, 53, of Palm Coast’s LL Section, was not hurt. She remained at the scene, speaking with authorities a few feet away from the scene of the crash. The bus was driven by Carlos Rodriguez, 60, who’s been driving for the district since 2016.

“He’s a great bus driver for us and has always done a great job for us,” Earl Johnson, the school superintendent’s second-in-command, said at the scene. “It’s his first accident, and it wasn’t his fault.”

Rodriguez was approaching his next-to-last stop, driving the Tiger bus west on Laguna Forest Trail. According to three witnesses at the scene, including a mother who was taking her children to the bus stop and Christopher Ellis, the homeowner at 20 Laguna Forest Trail, and the father of four, the bus slowed down and stopped in front of #20 to pick up children who’d come out of the house late. The spot where the bus stopped was not the usual stop, but a short distance ahead of the intersection with Llewellyn Trail, where the bus usually stops.

“He was slowing down because our kids were coming out late,” one of the children’s mothers said.

“The yellow lights were on and he was opening the red stop sign,” another witness said.

Ellis said Rodriguez “was stopped maybe for 10 seconds.” As for the flashers, “according to my son he had just started to put them on.”

A resident's sign in front of 16 Laguna Forest Trail has long pre-dated the crash. (© FlaglerLive)

A resident’s sign in front of 16 Laguna Forest Trail has long pre-dated the crash. (© FlaglerLive)

“Regardless, if the reds are on, the reds are on,” School Transportation Director Andy West said.

“It sounded like a bomb,” one of the parents said. There were no skid marks at all behind the truck’s tires, suggesting that the brakes had not been applied before the collision. The truck’s front was severely damaged. The bus itself sustained some reparable damage.

The crash took place at 8:24 a.m. Several Flagler County Fire Rescue units were initially called to the scene, though only one was eventually needed as the boy with the neck pain was attended to. “We were certainly providing the best care we could and and make sure everything was OK,” Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Richard Bennett said. The Palm Coast Fire Department and the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office also responded.

The rest of the students stayed on the bus rather calmly, chatting and looking out of the windows, until they were led to another bus and taken to school.

The Palm Coast Fire Police closed down several blocks of Laguna Forest Trail as the investigation proceeded. John’s Towing, the Bunnell wrecker, arrived at the scene to clear the crash at about 9:15. The road was to be opened shortly after that, at 9:40 a.m.

For residents of Laguna Forest Trail, however, they saw the crash as an illustration of a problem they’ve had for a long time, as many of them have been asking authorities to police the area or place speed bumps. Ellis said speedsters routinely drive down the road at 50 mph. “Today it’s a school bus, tomorrow it could be one of my kids on a bicycle,” he said. “There’s going to be more issues on this road.” He said last Friday and Saturday, sheriff’s deputies staked out the road for one hour one day, half an hour the next, and one of the deputies told him that resulted in 13 citations. A neighbor of Ellis’s several blocks further down said he’d spoken with a deputy and was told 14 citations were issued.

Neighbors consider the problem so pervasive that one of the residents, at 16 Laguna Forest Trail, put up a makeshift, fluorescent speed-limit sign. It stood there this morning, just a few feet away from the crash site.

Transportation Director Andy West speaking to someone in the bus, with Earl Johnson, the superintendent's deputy, to West's left, moments before the children on the bus were  directed to another bus. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Transportation Director Andy West speaking to someone in the bus, with Earl Johnson, the superintendent’s deputy, to West’s left, moments before the children on the bus were directed to another bus. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

school bus crash

The pick-up. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

school bus crash scene

The scene. (© FlaglerLive)

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11 Responses for “Pick-Up Rear-Ends Bunnell-Bound School Bus With 40 Students Aboard in Palm Coast’s LL Section”

  1. Stretchem says:

    Wrap your brains around this…. self driving electric speed zone pace vehicles. They literally pace up and down selected streets at the speed limit, forcing the cars behind them to adhere. If they pass, video sent to law enforcement and ticket arrives in the mail.

    Regardless, technology ultimately fixes this via active break assist or fullly autonomous cars. Or can you fix stupid at all? You hit a big gigantic yellow school bus with flashing lights! Or maybe technology is the cause of this accident ’cause your face was buried in your phone? Hope not.

    I think that if an accident is deemed to be caused by driver distraction via your phone, it should carry similar penalties as a DUI.

  2. Richard says:

    Someone obviously NOT paying attention to their driving. Another case of distracted driving, commonplace in America these days. Glad that no one was seriously hurt.

  3. Laguna Forest Resident says:

    We have been living very close to where the accident happened for about 4 years now and there are problems DAILY with people speeding down this road. I have contacted the city personally and still nothing is done by it. There was even one time where two vehicles were drag racing on this road as I was cutting my yard and I almost was hit! I’m not saying speeding is what happened here but speeding on this street is a daily occurrence. I have to agree with the interview question answered, today is a truck and a school bus, tomorrow, it could be one of our children who ride their bikes and play everyday. The city/law enforcement seriously needs to do something about the people speeding on this street, before someone is killed!!

  4. John Goule says:

    It looks exactly like the pickup I was following yesterday in Seminole Woods that was going from one grass shoulder to another without much of correction and one time almost hit a pole. I was afraid to pass it so decided to film that mode of driving. Then just turned off the road at the first opportunity cause didn’t want to witness head on collision as we were heading in more narrow part of the road. Must have been the same driver! Revoke that driver license, will you Staly?

  5. Mary Fusco says:

    Laguna Forest, I think it would be rather hard to speed behind a school bus since they stop so often. I would bet the farm she was texting since it is pretty hard to miss a huge yellow school bus with flashing lights. There need to be serious penalties for anyone caught doing this. Driving takes every one of your senses. My cell phone is turned off and in my purse while I am driving. There is nothing so important that it can’t wait until I reach my destination. Thankfully none of the children were hurt but I would imagine that some were rather shaken up by the situation. Yes, speeding is definitely a huge problem on the streets of PC. I live on Wynnfield and it is a veritable speedway. Very dangerous.

  6. palmcoaster says:

    Traffic law enforcement needed to ticket harsh speeders with no mercy as is a matter of life and death of our residents, many could be children, our pets and wildlife. Lets have our good sheriff stop this madness of these latest years. This is not the Palm Coast that I moved into 1991. A total disrespect for our stop signs, speed limits, double yellow line and school buses or children walking to board is obvious. Mr. Staly you have your work cut out, show us how you can keep us safe and thank you in advance!

  7. Concerned Citizen says:

    I am glad there were no serious injuries. And while I hope that distracted driving was not the cause I will say this.

    I have seen several cases of distracted driving and near misses with school buses. In every case the driver had a phone in their face. Oh I can hear it now “But I drive just fine while using the phone”. Umm no actually you don’t.

    Everytime I see distracted driving and a phone as the culprit the vehicle is doing this. You speed up then tailgate. realize what your doing then back off. You cut people off or nearly miss a light or stop sign. Tailgate again then slam on the brakes.

    There have been numerous studies done that show the negative uses of phones while driving. Yet people seem to think oh that’s not true. Or oh it will never happen to me.

    Odds are if you keep it up it will. People don’t realixe how much your reaction time is reduced. And traffic is already horrible enough.

    In short spend less time on the phone and more time driving. I work for a company that has a zero tolerence policy for cell phone usage in company vehicles. I can attest that that those calls and even worse texts can wait. And it makes you a better driver!!

    Finally there is no legitamite reason to excede the speed limit and disregard school bus signals. If you’re running late then leave early.

  8. Percy's mother says:


    On the phone.


  9. palmcoaster says:

    Just in case this was the case…texting and driving should be penalized same a DUI or worst. We need more speed traps in Palm Coast!

  10. Gromapoalop says:

    Strechem, but sure, what if one has a malfunction, then hits a group of kids?

  11. Apple Jack says:

    You should email your video to the Sheriffs office as they will be building a case against this habitual bad driver! They are why our insurance rates are ridiculous! Thank you!

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