Students injured when school van crashes

Students injured when school van crashes

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A 6-year-old boy underwent surgery for head injuries Friday evening after troopers with the Florida Highway Patrol said he was ejected from a van.

The accident was reported to have happened around 3:15 p.m., near the intersection of Reaves and Pleasant Hill roads in Kissimmee.

A spokesperson with FHP says 9 students were on the bus when it collided with a pickup truck.  The 6-year-old boy was transported by helicopter to Arnold Palmer Hospital after being ejected from the van.

The boy's grandfather said he was on his way to karate lessons when the crash occurred.

"According to witnesses the light was just turning yellow, as the van made the left turn," said said Sgt. Kim Montes with FHP.  "The front of the pickup truck struck the passenger side of the van."

A sign on the van identified it as coming from the Academy of Martial Arts, located on Business Center Lane in Kissimmee.  Sheryl Johnson, a spokesperson for academy, said the students were being transported from the Bellalago Academy, which is a charter school on Pleasant Hill Rd.

Troopers said the driver of van, 73-year-old Ronald Piccinelli, was at fault.

"Under Florida law, even though the light was yellow, the truck still has a right-of-way going straight," said Montes.   "That van has to yield to anybody coming straight."

Troopers say they're trying to find out if the students were wearing seatbelts.

"We don't know if those children were unrestrained or maybe they weren't wearing a seatbelt properly.  That's what we'll be looking for in the investigation," Montes said.

Montes added that the driver of the van would not be at fault if there were seatbelt violations.

"Under Florida law, these vans are exempt under the bus statute for utilizing seatbelts.  It means that they're not required to be using seatbelts while the vehicle is in motion.  We don't recommend that. We recommend that if the vehicle has a seatbelt, it be utilized by all occupants."

Piccinelli was ticketed for violation of right-of-way.

The children who were injured are from Bellalago Charter school.  Several teachers and the principal were at Arnold Palmer Hospital to support the parents and children involved in the accident.


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