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No charges in bus crash near Wadsworth

A rolled over school bus its way Newport School was involved multi-vehicle accident April 5 with Jeep Wrangler Jeep SUV

A rolled over school bus on its way to Newport School was involved in a multi-vehicle accident April 5 with a Jeep Wrangler and a Jeep SUV on Route. 173 and Kilbourne Road in Wadsworth. | Sun-Times Media file

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Updated: June 2, 2013 6:12AM

No one will be charged in the bus crash that took the life of a Beach Park motorist, investigators said.

The investigation into the accident in unincorporated Newport Township near Wadsworth found conflicting witness accounts as to what color the traffic lights were at the time of the crash. The investigation also revealed that Philip Smith, who was killed while driving a Jeep Wrangler, had prescription medication in his system. Smith’s full toxicology report will be released later by the coroner’s office.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office concluded its investigation at Kilbourne Road and Route 173 Tuesday, April 30. Smith’s full toxicology report will be released later by the coroner’s office.

Both the bus driver and a witness behind the bus told investigators that the bus had a green light, but another witness in the northbound lane of Kilbourne Road said the school bus had a red light. “There were two conflicting statements,” said Lt. Ed Harris.

The accident occurred at 8:03 a.m. April 5 with the school bus travelling westbound on Route 173 heading to Newport School with a load of children. The 2000 Jeep Wrangler, driven by Smith, 62, was southbound on Kilbourne Road. A third vehicle, a 2001 Jeep Cherokee was eastbound on Route 173 approaching the intersection.

“The variety of witnesses all saw something a little different,” he said. The traffic signal system was working properly, said Harris. A video recording inside the bus was not helpful because it records the inside of the bus and the crash caused the camera to stop on impact.

Sheriff Mark Curran said that the bus might have been going through a yellow or red light early that morning because of the T-bone type of accident it appeared to be, but a witness came forward later and said he saw the light for the bus and it was green.

“He was the only witness with the same perspective as the bus driver. He made the first 9-1-1 call and helped the kids out of the bus until the first ambulance arrived,” said Harris. The man then left to go to work and called the sheriff’s office later that morning. At a second press conference that afternoon, Curran corrected his earlier statement saying they had conflicting witness accounts.

The other witness was travelling northbound on Kilbourne Road and said that direction had the green light.

“Based on witnesses, it’s a stalemate in a way,” he said.

There are no Lake County Passage cameras at the intersection, but that would not have helped because those are live feeds and are not recorded.

Harris acknowledged that the investigation can be unsatisfying in that it does not give a clear cut culprit in the accident.

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