School bus accident victims identified

Driver, student out of hospital

Author: Brian Mylar, Reporter, bmylar@ksat.com
Published On: Oct 05 2012 04:49:46 PM CDT   Updated On: Oct 05 2012 05:56:25 PM CDT
bus
SAN ANTONIO -

The San Antonio Independent School District has now released the identities of the three people involved in the school bus accident on Thursday.

The driver has been identified as 73-year-old Elisha Owens, the bus monitor has been identified as 46-year-old Velma Pena and the student as 7-year-old Luis Zamarripa.

Both the driver and student have been released from the hospital and the bus monitor does not have life-threatening injuries.

The district is still investigating how the crash happened but district spokeswoman Leslie Price said a car did strike the bus before the crash.

The scene on the Interstate 37 access road made national news after the bus crashed off the elevated portion of the freeway. Miraculously, none of those on board was seriously injured.

Witnesses noted that the bus seemed to break apart after the accident.

Bus safety expert Jeff Cassell said that is actually a new safety feature.

He emailed: “This has been designed to allow the body to part from the chassis to help dissipate the energy in a crash. The body and frame is held to the chassis with large clips that free up in a crash.”

As for seatbelts, Price said the driver was wearing one, but she is not sure about the other two passengers.

When it comes to seatbelts, there is a significant difference of opinion among bus safety experts as to whether they make it safer for kids during a crash or more dangerous.

Cassell said seatbelts cause more problems than they solve.

SAISD recognizes there is a disagreement but has gone with seat belts.

"Since 2008, as we've ordered (all) new buses (must) come equipped with seatbelts," Price said.

She said it won't be long before all buses have them.

"At this point, more than half of our fleet has seatbelts on them for the passengers and that's how we order them from now on," Price said.

The Texas Legislature mandated seatbelts years ago but no funding was supplied.

The driver of the car involved in the bus has been identified as 18-yea-old Erica DeLosSantos. She was cited by police for no operator’s license and no insurance.