DERRY TOWNSHIP (KDKA) –- Police are investigating after a school bus driver was killed in a crash in Derry Township Monday morning.
According to police, the crash happened in the westbound lanes of Route 22, near Auction Barn Road shortly after 7 a.m.
According to state police, the coal truck rear-ended the school bus in the westbound lanes. After the collision, the coal truck, which was hauling a full load of stone, continued for about 100 yards before crashing into a model home display on the side of the road.
Officials say the school bus driver had activated her yellow warning flashers and was slowing down to pick up a student.
“There was a school bus that was from the Derry High School – Smith Bus Company – that was slowing to a stop to pick up a student. They were in the right-hand lane of Route 22 heading westbound. As they were slowing to a stop, there was a tri-axle truck that was traveling behind that bus that failed to notice the lights were being activated and the bus that was slowing down. The tri-axle collided into the back of the bus, causing the bus to spin around in a counterclockwise direction. That bus struck the median between 22 east and 22 west, the driver was ejected and subsequently, she succumbed to her injuries,” Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Stephen Limani said.
The bus driver was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash. She has been identified as Deborah Bopp, 54, of Blairsville.
There were no students on the bus at the time of the crash, but the student who was about to board was shaken and upset after witnessing the crash.
“What if I was on there? I was almost on that bus. I was walking towards it,” said 17-year-old Brianna Dunlap.
She would have been the first student pick-up of Bopp’s morning run.
“I was about to get on the bus and I was walking towards it, and then I looked up and there was a big truck coming towards it,” said Dunlap. “I just didn’t know what to do, and then I heard her yelling, and I couldn’t listen to that.”
Dunlap says she’s known Bopp for quite some time.
“Debbie, I’ve been riding since about sixth grade,” the teen said. “I know she liked horses a lot. She was nice, I liked Debbie.”
Meanwhile, the driver of the coal truck has been identified as 61-year-old Wesley White. He was flown to a Pittsburgh hospital and his condition is unknown.
The road was closed down for several hours as officials investigated the crash and cleared the mangled wreckage.
The Derry Township School District says they will have grief counselors on hand for the students who knew Bopp.