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OPP charge driver who hit bus carrying St. Charles students

By: Heidi Ulrichsen - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Mar 21, 2014 - 5:08 PM |
A bus driver with Tisdale Bus Lines is being hailed as a hero for avoiding the full brunt of a head-on collision with a transport truck on Highway 69. Supplied photo.

A bus driver with Tisdale Bus Lines is being hailed as a hero for avoiding the full brunt of a head-on collision with a transport truck on Highway 69. Supplied photo.

Tisdale Bus Lines driver hailed as hero

A 57-year-old transport truck driver from Owen Sound who clipped a charter bus carrying St. Charles College's senior boys hockey team March 20 has been charged with careless driving by the West Parry Sound OPP.

The charge carries a fine of $490 and six demerit points for a first offence.

Rob Zanatta, the hockey team's head coach, said the bus was heading north on Highway 69 near Britt, about 80 kilometres south of Sudbury when the southbound truck veered across the centre line at around 3:30 p.m.

He said he was sitting at the back of the bus, chatting with the students, when the collision occurred. There was a “massive boom and a smash of glass,” said Zanatta, who teaches physical education, history and civics at St. Charles.

“Our bus driver had to take the shoulder of the road to avoid him, and she did so expertly,” he said. “He still clipped us. They went mirror to mirror.”

Both the bus driver — a Tisdale Bus Lines employee named Denise (she's requested not to have her full name used in the media) — and the truck driver received minor injuries.

Denise's face was cut from the glass from her broken window, and she also had some glass in her eye, Zanatta said. The truck driver also appeared to have cuts on his face from glass, as his window also broke in the collision, Zanatta said.

The bus passengers were unhurt, he said. Damage to the bus was limited to the area right next to the bus driver.

Zanatta is hailing Denise as a hero.

“I truly believe she saved our lives,” he said. “We were inches from a head-on collision, which would have been catastrophic.”

The coaching staff tended to Denise until she was taken away by ambulance. The rest of the passengers waited on the disabled bus until Tisdale sent another coach to bring them the rest of the way to Sudbury.

Zanatta said he doesn't think the students realized how close they came to disaster until they saw the outside of the bus.

Tisdale Bus Lines manager Jason Hallett said the bus driver herself doesn't want to speak to the media about the incident.

She said she's doing well, and is looking forward to returning to work.

He said he thinks she did an “amazing job” in steering the bus away from danger.

But Hallett said he isn't surprised that Denise, who has been working for Tisdale for nearly a decade, was able to pull off the manoeuvre. All bus drivers are trained in defensive driving, he said.

“We train them to do those sort of things, but we can't always expect them to perform that way, especially under pressure,” Hallett said.

Denise has a perfect safety record, and is a leader among her fellow employees, he said.

He said he's received numerous emails and phone calls from the hockey players' parents and the general public, all praising Denise for her actions.

“We're very proud and we're very happy with how she handled the situation,” Hallett said. “She's definitely an amazing driver. We're just satisfied and really happy that nobody was injured.”
Heidi Ulrichsen

Heidi Ulrichsen

Staff Writer


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