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November 19, 2002

Bus with disabled riders crashes into house

From: South Bend Tribune, IN
Nov. 19, 2002

No injuries reported; driver may have blacked out

Tribune Staff Writer

SOUTH BEND -- Mary D. Martin was sitting in her living room on Carroll Street on Monday afternoon, waiting for the Transpo bus to bring her son home from work, when she heard the unmistakable sound of a crash.

Frantic, she ran to the door and saw the bus, which had just plowed into a house across the street. Fearing the worst, Martin immediately ran to get her 40-year-old son and to check on the other men on the bus.

"I knew my son was on there, I had been waiting for him to get off like I always do. I ran to them and asked them if they were OK," she said.

Martin found all five men, with varying disabilities, still strapped in their seats and frightened.

A Transpo Access bus taking five handicapped men home from their job at Logan Industries crashed into a house Monday at 1508 S. Carroll St.

There were no injuries.

The driver of the bus apparently blacked out, according to the first witness at the scene.

Bus No. 9904, a smaller, modified Transpo bus, was southbound on Carroll Street when the bus left the left side of the narrow street and struck the porch of Melissa Falludd's house. It broke the gas meter attached to the house. No one was home at the time.

Lee Harper had just gotten out of his car in the same block and saw what happened.

"He ran over the curb, up the yard and hit the house," Harper said. "I told him, 'Turn the truck off! Turn the truck off!' He said, 'I can't. I've got to radio it in.' He said he blacked out and didn't know what happened. That's what he said.

"I thought he was going to pull over and let this guy off who lives across the street, like he does every day," Harper said. "But he kept going and hit this house."

Harper said he and the driver chose to leave the men on the bus until they could determine whether they had any injuries.

"I kept yelling, 'Let me get them off!' " Martin said. "They were sitting on a gas line. It could've been worse. We could've all been blown up."

When police arrived within minutes, they escorted the men off the bus and directed them to Martin's home.

Martin's son, 40-year-old Carl Selmon, was on the bus. Although he's deaf and unable to speak, Selmon was able to communicate with his mother.

"He said he was really shook up and didn't know which way to go," Martin said on behalf of her son. "He said he cried, but he still wants to ride the bus so he can go to work."

Two other adult men, both with Down syndrome, said they were OK. They wouldn't leave the bus without their lunch bags and sat patiently at Martin's house until Transpo came with another bus for them.

Mary McLain, general manager of Transpo, said, "We're very glad there's no injuries. And needless to say, we're undertaking an investigation."

She said the driver will be required to undergo mental and physical evaluations, including screening for drugs and alcohol. A South Bend police officer at the scene said it did not appear that the driver was intoxicated.

Falludd said she had just left her house to pick up her children from day care.

When she rounded the corner on her way back, she was in shock. Falludd parked her car and ran toward the house, yelling and asking questions. "Oh, my God, is it my house? How'd he get up here? How'd this bus get up here?" she asked repeatedly. "I was only gone five minutes."

"This is like a surprise," she said excitedly. "It's shocking to me! A Transpo bus is in the house!"

After she calmed down a little, Falludd said, "I'm still trying to figure out how he got up there. We weren't in the house, and I'm glad. It would've scared me half to death."

"I'm a mess," she said.

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