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Police dispute cause of crash

News-Times, News-Times
Published 8:00 pm, Friday, July 7, 2006
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The girl, 12 other youngsters, and a chaperone from Children's Corner child-care center in Ridgefield were returning from a rafting trip in West Cornwall when the bus they were riding in flipped over after striking a boulder.

The bus driver, Edward Weller Jr., 52, of West Haven, and an unidentified second passenger, were released from the Danbury Hospital earlier Friday.

The dozen children who were not injured were taken by ambulance to New Milford Hospital as a precaution, police said. All were seen and released Thursday.

The bus driver had to be extricated from the crash by fire crews, and police said he might have suffered a broken bone. He complained of back pain.

On Friday, Weller declined to speak to a reporter. A woman who identified herself as his wife refused to offer details of her husband's condition other than to say he had no memory of the crash.

"He doesn't remember what happened," said the wife, who declined to give her name.

She confirmed officials' claims that Weller has worked for the state-licensed Children's Corner child-care center for 18 months and has an impeccable driving and safety record.

State Department of Motor Vehicle records indicate that Weller has professional licensing credentials beyond what is required for that job, including a public passenger transportation license and a commercial school bus driver license, said spokesman William Seymour.

Weller has no motor vehicle violations on his record, he said.

On Friday, police and state Department of Public Safety officials were continuing the investigation into the cause of the 3:18 p.m. crash, which occurred on what witnesses described as a "blind curve" in the highway where motorists often travel too fast for road conditions.

But Sgt. Earl Wheeler said the contention made by the center's representatives that the boulder rolled into the path of the bus is erroneous.

Wheeler said Friday the boulder dislodged as a result of the bus veering off the right side of the highway and hitting the earthen embankment. What caused the driver to go off the road has yet to be determined, the sergeant said.

The investigation has ascertained the small bus was headed south when it strayed off to the right shoulder.

"The vehicle collided with a large boulder and dirt embankment," Wheeler wrote in a news release after Thursday's crash. "Following the initial collision, the vehicle continued back to its left and came to rest on the driver side across both the north and southbound travel lanes of Kent Road (Route 7)."

Only the driver was pinned inside, police said. All of the other passengers were able to get out of the bus on their own, police said.

Hospital and center officials said because the children were wearing seat belts they were spared more serious harm.

Correspondent Emerson Clarridge contributed to this report. Contact Nanci G. Hutson

at nhutson@newstimes.com

or at (860) 354-2274.