Updated: Woman seriously hurt when SUV hits BRTA bus in Cheshire
Photo Gallery | Cheshire bus crash
CHESHIRE — A young woman was seriously injured Thursday when the SUV she was driving struck a Berkshire Regional Transit Authority bus on Route 8.
Witnesses said her northbound SUV was swerving erratically before it veered into the opposite lane and struck the bus head on.
Christopher Butler, of Cheshire, said he heard first responders say, "She's unresponsive, but we have a pulse," as they worked to extricate her from the wrecked Ford Freestyle.
At 7 p.m. on Thursday, Cheshire Police Chief Timothy Garner said despite suffering serious injuries, the woman who drove the SUV would survive. He declined to identify the woman.
After the collision, the bus shot into the northbound lane and off the road, threaded between two trees, and careened into a private residence at 137 South St., he said.
Front-end damage to the bus was fairly extensive, but Butler said the bus driver and roughly a half-dozen passengers did not appear to be seriously hurt.
"I got there about 20 seconds after the collision, and [the bus driver] wasn't [hurt badly], but she was jittery and saying, 'I couldn't do anything about it,' " Butler said. "It wasn't her fault."
Butler had been waiting to turn northbound onto Route 8 from the Lanesborough Road intersection when the crash occurred.
The bus occupants were initially trapped inside the vehicle until responders arrived to free them. The bus driver eventually was transported to the hospital, but not before she spoke to people at the scene while "vertical, mobile and lucid," according to witness Jeremy Gray.
Gray, of North Adams, pulled into Cheshire Liquor Center to assist at the scene when he realized a serious accident had occurred. He had been heading southbound to a final exam at Berkshire Community College.
"I actually thought there was thunder coming [upon hearing the impact]," Gray said. "But then I saw others pulling over to give aid. It was pretty scary, but nobody was panicking, we were discussing what we ought to do."
Gray said the woman in the SUV was "clearly alive and moving," immediately following the crash, but Gray and around a half-dozen other civilian responders could not open the car doors to get through to her.
The home that was struck is located across from the intersection and just before a bridge, beyond which is Cheshire Liquor Center and Adams Community Bank. Damage to the exterior of the home was serious and compromised the structural integrity of the home, according to Cheshire Fire Chief Thomas Francesconi.
As of 4 p.m.. the BRTA bus stayed put where it had struck the house, as it was possibly keeping the structure upright.
"We had to have a construction company come and build a support wall in the house because the building inspector determined that it might have jeopardized the structure to remove the bus," Francesconi said at 4 p.m.. "So, this wall needs to be finished. Then and only then will we move the bus."
The home is owned by Andrew Kachel, the operator of the town dump.
Cheshire Police and Fire Departments, Massachusetts State Police, Adams Police and Fire Departments, and local EMTs and ambulances responded to the scene.
Traffic was backed up in both directions while emergency crews worked the crash.
Through traffic on Route 8 was restored just after 1 p.m., but it moved very slowly at times as responders continued their work.