Car slams into Blaine school bus; no students injured

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDOctober 3, 2013 

BLAINE - Two people remained hospitalized Thursday evening, Oct. 3, after their car smashed into a school bus full of elementary, middle and high school students headed to Blaine as the bus turned from Alderson Road onto Blaine Road.

The car's driver, Austin C. Markusen, 38, remained in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle; his passenger, Krista J. Wieandt, 26, remained in serious condition at St. Joseph hospital in Bellingham, according to hospital officials.

The bus driver, Jerre L. Bouma, 61, was treated at the scene, according to Washington State Patrol. None of the 42 students on the bus were injured, Francis said. One student who bumped her head was transported to the hospital as a precaution but appeared to be fine, said Ron Spanjer, Blaine superintendent.

Heavy fog and speed were factors in the crash, according to a state patrol release.

Charges are pending while investigators determine whether Markusen was under the influence of drugs, said Mark Francis, a Washington State Patrol spokesman.

The Blaine school bus was eastbound on Alderson and had stopped at Blaine Road about 7:45 a.m. As the bus turned through the fog north onto Blaine Road, a white Pontiac Grand Prix headed south at a high rate of speed struck the rear end of the bus, knocking an axle off the bus, said Mark Francis, a Washington State Patrol spokesman.

The Pontiac was crushed by the impact.

The speed limit on Blaine Road in that area is 45 mph. It was not clear Thursday how fast the car was traveling when it struck the bus, but it was at a high rate of speed, Francis said. Under normal driving circumstances, the Pontiac would have had the right of way, because there is not a stop sign on Blaine Road in that area. But troopers believe the car was speeding in foggy conditions, Francis said. The investigation will determine who was at fault.

Bouma, the bus driver, said the Pontiac did not have its headlights on, but investigators may not be able to confirm that due to the damage to the car, Francis said. The bus driver gave a voluntary blood draw, Francis said.

Markusen has been convicted seven times of driving with a suspended license, according to court records. State patrol could not release whether his license was valid on Thursday, Francis said.

Markusen also has been convicted for five drug-related crimes, according to court documents. A search of Washington State court records did not show any criminal history or traffic offenses for Bouma.

The intersection was closed to traffic for several hours Thursday while troopers investigated the crash. The road reopened around 3 p.m.

The school district sent another bus to take the students to school after they were done being checked by medics, Spanjer said.

"We'll continue to monitor how they're doing," he said. "Our primary concern is making sure they're OK both mentally and physically."

Reach Samantha Wohlfeil at 360-756-2803 or samantha.wohlfeil@bellinghamherald.com.

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