Investigators believe bus driver ran stop sign, caused accident that sent two to hospital
DOWAGIAC, Mich. – Around 6:43 Wednesday morning, first responders were called out to the intersection of Dewey Lake Road and Atwood Road, after a truck ran into a bus and rolled it onto it side—and sent the truck into a ditch.
Four students were on board—along with 40-year-old bus driver Benjamin Lee Hoops and 45-year-old Roy Payne.
Dowagiac Union Schools Superintendent Jonathan Whan arrived on scene shortly after he got the call.
“I was able to touch base with the families, the transportation director and law enforcement, the EMTS and the fire department, and realized and got the report that everyone’s looking good, just some bumps and being a little roughed up. Once I knew, it was a relief,” Whan said.
One of the adults was transported to the hospital, as well as one of the students, “out of an abundance of caution,” according to Whan.
While everyone was relieved that none involved were seriously injured in the crash—those with family in the district said the accident made them worried.
“Things happen,” said Dorinda Arscheene, who’s great grandson is a Dowagiac Middle School student. “It could’ve been a new driver, I don’t know.”
According to investigators, it was the Hoops, the driver of the bus—who’d been a substitute driver for the district since last November—who disregarded a stop sign while traveling South on Atwood Road, when the truck—traveling West on Dewey Lake Road—hit the bus.
“It’s a terrible and unfortunate situation,” said Whan. “It was the first time that he’d been on this route to the best of my knowledge.”
Whan felt Hoops’s unfamiliarity with the route, combined with the darkness and the fog in the early morning may have contributed to the accident.
Investigators do not believe drugs or alcohol were factors in the crash—Hoops was tested for both according to Capt. Tom Jacobs with the Cass County Sheriff’s Department—but even so, Whan said the district conduct its own internal investigation, to determine what their next steps will be.
“Out of respect for all employees, I don’t discuss what will or will not happen with employees, but we take it serious,” Whan said. “I’m sure that everyone wants to know that we take it serious, and we’ll be assessing how we move forward.”
Whan added that this investigation is standard procedure, and that their bus drivers are routinely drug tested before allowing them to drive for the district.