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Bus Driver Who Struck Pedestrian Cited for Failure to Yield

The Alachua County Schools bus driver who struck a pedestrian who was crossing Northwest 13th at Northwest 7th Avenue Tuesday afternoon has been cited for failing to yield the right-of-way, a spokesman for the Gainesville Police Department said.

The school bus driver, Irma Villacorta-Saenz, was turning left northbound from Northwest 7th Avenue after leaving J.J. Finley Elementary School when Sara Hulbert, 21, began to walk east across Northwest 13th Street and was hit.

“Apparently when the green light went (on), both the pedestrian and the bus preceded," said Ben Tobias, spokesperson for GPD. "The bus did not see the pedestrian and unfortunately struck her.

"The front wheels of the bus  actually did roll over the pedestrian,” he said.

Adriel Barrios, an employee at Adrian’s Auto Service, hurried out to the scene after a customer told him what happened.

“We run outside and I see the girl laying right under the bus. She was curled up. She must have been a foot from the rear tire,” Barrios said. “It stopped right before the rear tires ran over her.”

A nurse who was on the scene administered first aid until paramedics arrived. When emergency crews showed up, Hulbert was talking and alert, Tobias said.

“[Hulbert was] obviously in some pain from the accident, but thankfully she did not suffer any life threatening injuries and that is absolutely a miracle that that happened,” he said.

Barrios said that Hulbert had some bruises on her legs.

“That’s when she curled up and the bus driver stopped the bus," he said. "A couple of people that were helping her— they said that she was in a lot of pain and she couldn’t move her legs.”

Barrios said that intersection is known for such accidents.

“People get rear ended all the time. When they are crossing— they run red lights. A lot of people are on their phones. It’s a very dangerous intersection,” he said.

In 2012,  the bus driver, Villacorta-Saenz, was suspended for three days without pay after video revealed that she used her cell phone on multiple occasions while driving students on the bus.

“Right now , we are in the process of investigating what happened,” said Jackie Johnson, spokesperson for Alachua County Schools. “While we do the investigation the employee is on administrative leave, and that’s standard operating procedure whenever you have an accident involving an injury.”

The school district will look at what kind of disciplinary actions the bus driver could face based on the circumstances of the accident, Johnson said.

At the time of the accident, only a few students remained on the bus. Another bus was sent to pick them up from the scene, she said.

Chip Skinner, spokesperson for the Regional Transit system, said neither the city nor law enforcement have a way of confirming whether Hulbert was walking while the walk signal was on. Traffic light cameras at the intersection only offer live feed and do not record video, he said.

No updates on Hulbert's condition were available.

Gemima is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.
Ryan is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org