Monday, 13 February 2017 17:03

Stolen school bus smashes 2 Saint John police cars during high-speed chase

A stolen school bus rammed two Saint John police cars Thursday morning, destroying one and damaging the other during a high-speed chase on the city's west side Thursday morning.

No children were on the bus when it was stolen from the Lorneville home of the Anglophone South School District bus driver, who had turned the bus off but left the keys inside.

The driver had gone home at 10:45 a.m. to pick something up before her next bus run, said Jamie Tait, transportation manager for the school district.

While she was inside, she heard the bus running in the yard and ran out to find it had been stolen, Tait said in an e-mail.

"She called police and district personnel right away to report the incident," he said.

Responding officers soon spotted the three-quarter length special needs, wheelchair-accessible bus turning from the Lorneville overpass down onto Highway 1, said Sgt. Charles Breen.

"The major concern when it first happened, was the vehicle was heading in towards the city, into a highly populated area," he said.

"We weren't sure why the bus was taken, [or] who was operating the bus, so we were very concerned about public safety."

An officer injured when his vehicle was rear-ended by the bus and was transported to the hospital and later released, Breen said.

The other officer, who had pulled over to lay down a spike belt earlier in the chase in a bid to stop the bus, was "barely able to get out of the way" before his car was smashed, said Breen.

"Our officer, as he was getting away, noticed that pieces of the police vehicle were flying over top of his head," he said.

The collision occurred before the bus hit the spike belt and before any of its tires were deflated, said Breen.

'Deliberate'

"This was deliberate," he said. The officer, who was in the ditch beside his police car, "noted that the person operating the school bus swerved towards where his vehicle was parked."

"The guy rammed the car, pushed it off the road into the ditch and there's nothing left of the car."

The police car, which was new and worth about $30,000, was "completely destroyed," Breen said.

Damage to the other car was extensive, he said, and worth about $20,000.

It could have been a lot worse if the driver hadn't abandoned the bus and tried to run, Breen said.

"Luckily, before there were any other injuries, any more damage, the driver pulled the bus over to the side of the road," he said.

"I believe a lot of that had to do with the fact that a number of the tires had been deflated by the spike belt."

A 19-year-old man was arrested without incident following a brief foot chase near the Grand Bay-Westfield exit, said Breen.

The accused remains in custody and is facing several possible charges, including theft of the bus, dangerous driving and failing to remain at the scene of an accident, said Breen.

GPS reveals route

The school bus, which was towed to the school district's repair facility, has damage to all four tires and the front area of the bus where it struck the police vehicles, Tait said.

"We don't know the extent of the damage or cost of repairs yet. Our repair facility will be assessing damage and updating us in the coming days," he said.

No service interruptions are anticipated, said Tait. ​Another bus will be used until the damaged bus can be repaired, he said.

Based on the school district's GPS information, the bus travelled along Point Road until arriving at Lorneville Road, where it turned onto King William Road, then entered Highway 1 eastbound, said Tait.

It took the Highway 7 cutoff, where it proceeded toward Grand Bay-Westfield, taking the exit onto Highway 177, also known as the Martinon bypass, where it came to a stop.

Link: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/stolen-school-bus-saint-john-police-1.3974154