Witnesses: Semi Driver Did Not Try to Avoid Bus Carrying St. Ignatius College Prep Students

Before he hit a bus carrying students from St. Ignatius College Prep, the driver of a semi was seen swerving back and forth across a highway and traveling more than 90 mph, according to Indiana authorities. Victor Santos briefly tapped the brakes of his truck as he approached an intersection on U.S. Rte. 30 in Warsaw Saturday evening, then barreled through a red light and knocked the school bus on its side, according to court documents that include new details of the crash. Witnesses said it did not appear he tried to slow down or swerve to miss the bus. At least 16 members of the school’s junior varsity hockey team were injured, three of them critically. Santos was arrested after he drove his truck off the road past the intersection. His blood alcohol level was .13%, almost twice the legal limit in Indiana, police reported. Santos stumbled out of his truck when police approached and officers reported smelling alcohol on him. “Santos’ eyes [were] red and glossy,” a police report states, adding that his speech was “slurred and slow.” Witnesses told police they had been following Santos’ truck back in Columbia City, about 20 miles away, and said he was traveling more than 90 mph at times. Other witnesses said they tried to outrun the truck because it was traveling so erratically, but they “noticed the semi tractor-trailer catching up from behind at a high rate of speed. “ The truck passed them while “straddling the yellow line in the middle of the roadway, forcing them off the side of the road,” police said. They called police to report the driver, then followed with their hazard lights flashing. The witnesses said the truck’s brake lights “illuminated momentarily “ at Center Street but the truck ”continued into the intersection without slowing down, running the red light and striking the school bus that was turning left on the green arrow,” the police report states. Santos was charged with felony counts of causing serious bodily injury while operating a vehicle and criminal recklessness while armed with a deadly weapon, police said. In court documents, officials said Santos is a registered sex offender in the state of New York, and was convicted of rape in 1999. The hockey team had been competing in a tournament at Culver Military Academy and were returning to their hotel from dinner when the crash occurred around 8 p.m. One of the most seriously injured students was discharged from a hospital Sunday evening, school spokeswoman Kristyn Hartman said. Two other students were expected to remain hospitalized for three to five more days, she said. Ten others on the bus were uninjured, police said. All were taken by another school bus to Lutheran Kosciusko Hospital, where officers notified relatives, police said. The students are 14 to 17 years old. Colin McGrath said he was resting on his friend’s shoulder on the bus when “all of a sudden I hear a crash, bang, and I blacked out.” McGrath woke up on top of his friend. Shattered glass was everywhere. “I picked up my friend, and some pedestrian came and opened the emergency door for us,” he said. “After that it was just walking, freaking out, just getting out and figuring out what was happening and getting everyone safe.”

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