EVANS CITY – A freight train struck a rural transit bus carrying senior citizens and people with developmental disabilities Friday morning, killing an elderly woman and injuring nine other passengers and the driver, authorities said. At least one other injury was serious.
It appeared the small bus, carrying passengers ranging in age from mid-20s to 92, entered the crossing and stopped on the tracks, said Evans City police Chief Joseph McCombs. The engineer sounded a horn and tried to stop the train, but couldn’t. The bus came to rest about 20 feet away but did not overturn.
Police were investigating whether dense morning fog contributed to the crash, which happened shortly after 8 a.m. in Evans City, about 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. The railroad crossing has no gates.
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office said that Claudette Miller, 91, of Callery, was pronounced dead Friday afternoon at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.
Brian Greenawalt, a Harmony Township paramedic supervisor, said one victim suffered “a pretty significant head injury.”
Police said the Butler Area Rural Transit bus was on its way to a program known as Lifesteps.
A woman who identified herself as the granddaughter of a 90-year-old woman on the bus told WPXI-TV that her grandmother was headed to geriatric care program at Lifesteps. The woman said the bus takes adult patients of all ages to the facility for a variety of programs.
A Lifesteps official did not immediately return a call for comment, but the facility’s website said it is a nonprofit that has operated since 1923.
Lifesteps “services for children, families, adults with special needs and seniors are designed to encourage growth, independence, confidence and dignity,” the website said.
The transit agency’s website indicates it partners with the Alliance For Nonprofit Resources, a social service agency based in the county seat of Butler, to provide reduced-fee transportation for people with disabilities.
Michael Robb, executive director of the Alliance for Nonprofit Resources Inc., said he’s been told that fog played a role in the crash. Robb also said he doesn’t believe the bus stopped on the tracks.
“He stopped prior to the tracks as he’s required and as he was crossing the tracks he was hit,” Robb said.
The transit agency’s website said it operates 17 wheelchair-accessible buses that make about 300 trips a day, six days a week.