A Kings Valley Charter School bus transporting children was involved in a crash Tuesday afternoon at the Highway 20 and Highway 34 intersection west of Philomath, emergency responders reported.
Benton County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Christopher Duffitt said that just before 4 p.m. March 21, a vehicle with the driver and a passenger pulled out in front of the bus while making a left turn from Highway 34 onto Highway 20. The bus, which was heading east toward Philomath, T-boned the car.
“He was the at-fault driver for pulling out in front of the bus there,” Duffitt said.
Philomath Fire & Rescue Deputy Fire Chief Rich Saalsaa said the bus driver and none of the children were injured in the crash. Duffitt didn’t know the exact number but said there were a handful of kids on the bus. Parents arrived to pick up their children, he added.
There were also reportedly no injuries for the pair in the passenger car. The driver was cited and the passenger was arrested on an unrelated warrant.
Dispatches to the scene of a crash involving a bus involves an extra layer to the response, Duffitt said.
“I think that when it involves a bus of any sort, we can expect it to be a larger vehicle and possibly have a more significant impact,” Duffitt said. “Plus, we also know there’s going to be more people involved, so that would increase the urgency of our response to a bus crash and then to a crash involving a school bus knowing there could be children of any age who are likely not wearing seat belts.
“It can be a concern and obviously is a concern when we hear those calls.”
Highway 20 traffic was shut down in both directions for an estimated 15 minutes, Saalsaa said, while responders assessed the scene. Heading west, traffic was reportedly backed up in Philomath as far as 19th Street and beyond during the highway closure.
“It’s definitely not an ideal place because it’s difficult to really divert people effectively around an intersection like that,” Duffitt said. “We could divert people back to Highway 34 and possibly divert somebody in a very roundabout way to Highway 20 but not with one obvious detour. So those are impactful right there.”
Philomath Fire & Rescue sent an engine with three personnel and Saalsaa was at the scene as the agency’s incident commander, remaining in place to assist with traffic control.
Neither the car nor the bus were drivable following the crash and were towed from the scene, Duffitt said.
Kings Valley Charter School offers bus service to its students through a contract with the Alsea School District.
BCSO and the Philomath Police Department also responded to the scene. Corvallis Fire had been contacted for medical transport but that dispatch was canceled.
In addition, Saalsaa said Oregon Department of Transportation personnel who happened to be in the area at the time of the crash also assisted with traffic control and moving the disabled vehicle from the roadway.