An early morning accident involving a Blaine school bus on October 3 sent two people to the hospital and left a Pontiac Grand Prix in pieces.
A school bus full of elementary, middle and high school students headed to school was T-boned by the car around 7:45 a.m. as the bus turned from Alderson Road onto Blaine Road, according to Washington State Patrol (WSP).
“According to the bus driver, the Pontiac did not have its lights on,” said Mark Francis, a WSP spokesman.
While investigators may not be able to confirm that claim due to the significant damage incurred in the wreck, Francis said, “there’s some things we can try.”
The bus driver gave a voluntary blood sample, Francis said.
Heavy fog and speed were potential factors in the crash, according to a statement released by the WSP.
None of the 42 students on board were injured, Francis said, although one was transported to St. Joseph Hospital in Bellingham as a precaution after hitting her head.
The bus driver, Jerre Bouma, 61, was treated at the scene.
“There was significant damage to both the school bus and vehicle,” Francis said.
As of October 7, the driver, Austin Markusen, 38, was listed in critical condition in the ICU at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. “His injuries were life threatening,” Francis said.
The passenger, Krista Wieandt, 26, has been discharged from St. Joseph Hospital.
Charges are pending while investigators determine whether Markusen was under the influence of drugs, Francis said.
The speed limit on that section of Blaine Road is 45 mph, Francis said.
It was unclear how fast the car was traveling when it struck the bus, but it was at a high rate of speed and caused significant damage to both vehicles, totaling the Pontiac and disengaging the rear axle on the bus.
“We won’t know exactly how fast he was going until we finish the investigation,” said state trooper Keith Leary. “It was possibly a contributing factor, but it’s hard to tell because of the inclement conditions how fast he was actually going.”
Under normal circumstances, the Pontiac would have had the right of way because there is no stop sign at that intersection on Blaine Road, Leary said.
An investigation will determine who was at fault.
Markusen has been convicted seven times of driving with a suspended license, according to court documents.
His license is currently suspended, Leary said.
A search of Washington state court records did not show any criminal history or traffic offenses for Bouma.
The intersection was closed to traffic for several hours Thursday while troopers investigated the accident. The road reopened around 3 p.m.
While most students were transported to school, Spanjer said some parents chose to keep their children with them for the rest of the day.
“There are some bumps and bruises, but we are very fortunate considering the type of accident that occurred,” Spanjer said. “The bus held up well considering the impact and we’re very fortunate that the kids are OK.”
He said that the school will keep an eye on the students involved in the incident.
“We’ll continue to monitor how they’re doing,” he said. “Our primary concern is making sure they’re OK both mentally and physically.”
Spanjer praised Bouma for keeping a level head in the incident.
“Jerre is a stellar individual,” Spanjer said. “She did a tremendous job of keeping the kids calm and attending to her needs. She’s been a superior employee.”