GAINESVILLE, Fla. - A Gainesville city bus ended up on its side along a treeline Wednesday after it was hit by an SUV and the driver lost control, according to the Gainesville Police Department.
The Regional Transit System was carrying 15 passengers, and 13 of them were injured. At least seven were taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.
The transit system is often used by University of Florida students, but the school is currently on spring break, and police said they did not believe any students or children were involved in the crash.
Police said the crash was reported about 11 a.m. on NE 39th Avenue near NE 2nd Street, and firefighters and other rescue personnel were able to pull all the passengers safely out of the tipped bus.
The preliminary investigation revealed that the bus was either traveling east on 39th Avenue or leaving a roadside bus stop on 39th Avenue when a white SUV hit the left side of the bus, police said. The driver of the bus lost control after the collision, and both vehicles ended up in the treeline, police said.
Police said the bus narrowly missed rolling into a creek.
"Thankfully, there was a pretty stout tree that was holding the bus from falling into the creek," GPD spokesman Officer Ben Tobias said. "Had it fallen into the creek and rolled over, the injuries would have been much more severe."
Witnesses said it was a chaotic scene, and they are thankful no one was hurt worse.
"I know it threw them for a loop because there’s no seat belts," said a neighbor who asked to be identified only as Russ.
He lives across the street from the crash and said he can only imagine what the passengers went through.
"I saw that they had to pull them out of the top, and also break out like a window or something and pull them out through the windows," Russ said.
Police said the crash is being investigated to determine what, if any, citations should be issued. Because of the number of people involved, the investigation could take some time, police said. The bus is equipped with video cameras, which should help the investigation.
The driver of the SUV wasn't hurt.
Gainesville Fire Rescue tweeted photos from the scene, showing tree surgeons helping city workers and tow truck drivers get the bus out of the woods. It took them hours.
The south side of 39th Avenue was shut down from 6th Street to Main Street. All eastbound lanes east of NW 39th Avenue at 6th Street were blocked, and drivers were asked to find alternate routes.
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