At about 11:27am Monday morning, the Turlock Police Department, Turlock Fire Department, and American Medical Response responded to an injury vehicle collision at N. Olive Avenue and North Avenue.
When units arrived on scene, they found that a Turlock Unified School District 2005 Thomas School Bus had struck a pedestrian.
The pedestrian, later identified as Aubelia Zamora, 62, of Oregon, was found alert and conscious. She suffered minor injuries and was ground transported by American Medical Response to Doctors Medical Center.
The bus was occupied by about 40 students, two of which claimed that their heads struck the padded high-back seat in front of them. Neither of them had any obvious injuries, but were checked out as a precautionary measure.
Although the collision occurred within the City of Turlock, the California Highway Patrol is responsible for investigating collisions involving school buses when anyone is injured or if there are students on board.
A CHP officer responded and began his investigation, determining that Edwin Bettencourt, 62, of Hilmar, had been driving the school bus eastbound on North Avenue approaching N. Olive Avenue, while Zamora had been waiting to cross N. Olive Avenue at North Avenue from east to west.
As the pedestrian crossing signal indicated to Zamora that she was clear to cross, Bettencourt’s eastbound traffic signal also turned green. Zamora began crossing and Bettencourt entered the intersection, beginning to make a left turn to go northbound on N. Olive Avenue.
While Bettencourt was turning, the front left of his bus struck Zamora, causing her to fall to the ground.
The CHP officer found that Bettencourt was at fault for the collision, because even though he had a green signal, that intersection didn’t have a protected left turn signal, thus requiring Bettencourt to yield to any pedestrians lawfully in the intersection, like Zamora.
The CHP officer didn’t cite Bettencourt at the scene, however, that could come at the end of the investigation in about a week, depending on officer discretion.
At the time, the school bus was taking Crowell Elementary students to a field trip at the university.
All students and staff on board the bus were returned back to Crowell and parents of the children on the bus were notified of the incident via ParentSquare. Crowell administration will be following up with any students or staff expressing concerns, providing counselors if needed.
Bettencourt had been with TUSD for nearly eight years and had been a licensed school bus driver for 11 years. He was removed from driving duties pending the outcome of the investigation, as well as alcohol and drug testing.