GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - An RTS bus made to look like a school bus and an SUV crashed into a ditch in Gainesville Wednesday morning, sending seven people to the hospital. Crews worked for hours to remove both vehicles from the area and reopen the road.
Gainesville Police believe the bus was pulling back into traffic from a bus stop when an SUV hit the bus, causing them both to veer off. Witnesses who watched the rescue said they're glad it wasn't worse.
"I still have tears in my eyes," said Russell Keefe, who struggled to regain composure as he recalled the rescue efforts.
He says the scene was hard to watch. Fire rescue crews responded to NE 39th Ave after an SUV hit an RTS bus around 11 o'clock Wednesday morning.
"We did have to stabilize the bus with a winch and a chain off of one of our trucks to make sure it didn't go further down the embankment," said Gainesville Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Joanne Rice.
Any further and it would have gone into the creek below. Keefe watched from across the street.
"I saw that they were having to bring them out of the roof and kind of break out the window and stuff," Keefe said. "And I know they got thrown all over the place because there's no seatbelts in there and everything. And I know it hurt."
The driver of the SUV was not injured but seven of the 13 bus passengers, including a pregnant woman, were taken to the hospital with minor injuries.
"It's terrible," Keefe said. "And I wish it didn't happen."
Two tow trucks quickly removed the SUV, but they had to cut down multiple trees and branches before they could try to move the bus. Lanes going east were closed for more than five hours.
After what he saw, Keefe said he'll be avoiding riding the bus for now.
"We don't want to be on a bus and get thrown into the daggone creek like that," Keefe said.
GPD said they're interviewing the bus passengers and the driver of the SUV. They also plan to review video surveillance taken by cameras inside the bus as part of their investigation.