NEW CUMBERLAND - Last week's fatal motorcycle accident involving a Hancock County school bus could have been a lot worse were it not for the "masterful" control of the school bus driver involved, Hancock County Schools Superintendent Suzan Smith said on Tuesday.
Smith praised the experience and skill of bus driver Bill Wiseman at Tuesday's regular school board meeting. Wiseman, a bus driver of about 20 years, had just dropped off students at New Manchester Elementary School and was on his way to Oak Glen High School when the May 23 accident happened.
A motorcycle driven by Jeffrey P. Brennan, 44, of Newell slid under the bus after clipping a vehicle that had slowed for a car that was turning left on state Route 8, authorities said. Brennan's motorcycle, which was southbound, lodged under the middle of the northbound bus and burst into flames, catching the bus on fire.
Burn and skid marks are still visible on the stretch of roadway, near the entrance of Tomlinson Run State Park, where the crash happened.
Wiseman was not injured, and his actions likely prevented further injuries, Smith told board members.
"The tires flattened on the front of the bus, but Mr. Wiseman still maintained control and got the bus stopped," she said. "This tragedy could have been a lot worse were it not for his skill and complete control of the bus. ... It could have gone into the other lane, it could have rolled over. There were homes nearby."
Smith said the school district made counselors available for students after the accident. She, too, was affected by the events of May 23.
"I hope I never have to witness anything like that again," she said. "When you leave in the morning, you never know what's going to happen by the end of the day."
Smith again sent her condolences to Brennan's family and expressed gratitude that no students were on board. "There is no other way to describe this than as a tragedy," she said.
Brennan, a boilermaker by trade, graduated from Oak Glen in 1986. He played baseball and football in high school and, more recently, played softball in the Chester-Newell Men's Softball League.