A school bus that was empty except for its driver struck several cars in north suburban Niles this afternoon in a chain of accidents that might have started as a result of a medical problem involving the bus driver.
Park Ridge Fire Deputy Chief Jeff Sorensen said one person was taken to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge but would not give further information about the injured person, including whether he or she was the bus driver. There appeared to have been other people injured in the chain of crashes though the exact number and extent of the injuries remained unclear.
Sorensen confirmed that other than the driver, the bus was unoccupied.
Sorensen said that there was wreckage between Oriole and Greenwood avenues along Oakton Street, and there appear to be between five and six individual crashes along that mile and a half stretch. He said some of those crashes are more significant than others.
The stretch, he said, forms the border between Niles and Park Ridge.
Park Ridge police are taking the lead on the investigation, but emergency crews responded from seven different departments: Glenview, Niles, Skokie, Morton Grove, Park Ridge, Rosemont and the North Maine Fire Protection District.
Park Ridge got the first 911 call about the crash at 2:30 p.m. and he believes Niles got a call about a minute or two before that.
Park Ridge fire responded to the crash at Oakton and Greenwood avenues, which is where the bus eventually wound up.
At that point, the bus—described by Sorensen as a regular, full-size bus—had hit a cab.
The crash has closed Oakton Street between Greenwood and Milwaukee avenues, though it was unclear how long the closure would last.
Initial reports indicate the bus driver struck one car and kept going, and that the impact sent one car into a nearby home.
At the corner of Oakton Street and Prospect Avenue, a gray car marked as a “Harvard Ford Courtesy Car” crashed into Kathy Hirsch’s childhood home.
Hirsch, 53, said she heard about the crash while at work at Jefferson School just a block away. She rushed to the house where her mother still lives to find the car neatly sitting in the driveway as if someone had backed it into the space. Hirsch said she did not see who was in the car, which had severe damage to its front. The back of the car crashed into the garage, which is now structurally unstable, Hirsch said.
Hirsch said authorities told her the gray car was going east as the school bus traveled west.
“It must have had so much force that it hit the garage like this,” Hirsch said.
Jacek Orzech, 49, said he was in the kitchen about 2:30 p.m. when he suddenly heard four or five loud bumping noises. He ran to his front porch, which faces Oakton Street between Prospect and Greenwood avenues and is on the same block as Emerson Middle and Jefferson schools.
His van and car in the driveway weren't hit, but a light-colored SUV was left in the middle of the road, badly wrecked, he said. Some other vehicles pulled over as drivers got out to help, so a Niles police car drove around the cluster, onto his lawn, and sped west toward the school bus, he said.
Orzech said he was relieved there were no kids out at the time. His daughter is a 6th grader at Emerson -- which gets out at 3 p.m. -- and walked home minutes later, as school officials monitored the scene.
"I hope nobody is hurt. That's the most important thing,” Orzech said. “Everything else is why we have insurance."
Liad Schlomo, manager at Yogli Mogli, a yogurt shop near at the northwest corner of Prospect Avenue and Oakton Street in Niles, said he saw the accident’s immediate aftermath.
He said a man came into his shop to call police, saying a school bus had hit the car he was driving head-on. Schlomo said the driver told him the crash propelled his car into a house across the street on Oakton Street.
The school bus, Schlomo reported the man as saying, was traveling west on Oakton Street.
Schlomo said he could not see the school bus, which appeared to have left the scene, but he did see the man’s car, which was on fire for a few minutes before going out. The driver told Schlomo that the school bus driver continued on after hitting him, Schlomo said.
Schlomo said some of the customers in his yogurt shop ran outside after hearing the man’s tale and saw several more cars that appeared to have been hit by the same school bus.Copyright © 2015, RedEye