Fatal Bus Crash Blows through the Evans City Fog

Hailie Sandor, Staff Photographer

Last Friday, images of terror played across the television as a train struck a Rural Transit bus for Butler County that was crossing a set of railroad tracks in Evans City. Carrying close to a dozen passengers that were elderly or mentally challenged caused for an invasive rescue.

Eleven people, including the driver of the bus, were injured and ranged in age from 25 to 92.  The two critically injured passengers were taken by medical helicopters to area hospitals. One later died at Allegheny General Hospital from injuries sustained in the crash to her head and body.

Evans City Police Chief Joe McCombs said in a statement to KDKA that “the white BART mini-bus, which is part of a transportation program run by the Alliance For Nonprofit Resources in Butler, was heading east towards South Washington Street at about 8:15 a.m. when it stopped for an unknown reason on the tracks while the train was approaching.”

The freight train blew its horn as a warning several before it struck the bus broadside, spinning it around, McCombs said. The impact lifted the bus and tossed it to the other side of the tracks, but did not flip it over. “From the engineer’s account, the bus was stopped directly on the crossing,” McCombs said. “There was nothing he could do to avoid the collision. The Allegheny Valley Railroad train came to a stop about 100 yards from where it struck the bus,” the chief said.

Evans City police officer Trina Loesch told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that bus driver Frank Schaffner, of Butler, said he did not see the train because of thick fog. Schaffner was one of three people taken to Butler Memorial Hospital.

With crossing gates or warning lights do not guard the Maple Street intersection locals question if there should be a gate for this crossing. McCombs told the Post -Gazette that Evans City owns Maple Avenue, but that the Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad determines where crossings and signals are placed.

The chief said conditions were not ideal during the time of the crash with the amount of fog and authorities are investigating if weather was a factor in the accident.