By Elise Franco
An Austintown school-bus driver likely had a fatal heart attack just before the vehicle ran off the road and hit trees, police said. Fourteen students were checked out at area hospitals.
Police Chief Bob Gavalier said a medical examination indicates the driver, identified as Jack Cabot, 62, of Canfield, had the heart attack just before the accident.
Fire Chief Andy Frost Jr, said the accident happened about 7:45 a.m. Friday on Kirk Road near Austintown Township Park. “We’re just trying to put the pieces of the accident together,” Frost said.
The investigation is ongoing.
Cabot, a substitute driver, was transporting students from Austintown Fitch High School to the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center in Canfield.
Gavalier said the bus was carrying 51 students in grades 11 and 12 at the time of the crash.
Nine were taken to area hospitals by ambulance, and the others were driven by their parents. All of them had minor injuries, he said.
Schools Superintendent Vince Colaluca said the students who didn’t go to the hospital were examined by school nurses at Fitch.
He said a few of them were sore and some had whiplash.
Trees the bus ran into caught on the underside of the vehicle, which seemed to have stopped the bus from going down into a ravine, Gavalier said.
“It’s very unfortunate that there was a loss of a life,” he said. “But it is fortunate that no one else was seriously injured.”
Colaluca said he’s proud of the way the students reacted in the situation. He said they stayed calm and made sure everyone made it safely off the bus.
“The students really put their training into action,” he said. “There were two or three students helping to get everyone else off the bus and at a safe distance from the accident.”
Students have participated in bus-safety exercises, he noted.
Though no students were injured, Colaluca said the entire district is grieving the loss of one of its own.
“Our sympathies go out to Jack’s family and to the transportation department,” he said. “We lost a member of our family today, and it’s unfortunately very sad.”