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SUV strikes up to 7 students waiting for bus

A sport-utility vehicle jumped a curb outside a Belmont, Calif., middle school Wednesday afternoon and plowed into a group of children waiting for a bus, seriously injuring at least two of them, police and hospital officials said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A sport-utility vehicle jumped a curb outside a middle school Wednesday afternoon and plowed into a group of children waiting for a bus, seriously injuring at least two of them, police and hospital officials said.

The incident occurred around 12:30 p.m. as Ralston Middle School was letting out for the day. Witnesses said the car, a 2004 Honda Pilot, was in the school parking lot when it hit the students and then rammed into a tree before stopping.

Five to seven children were hit, including several who were trapped under the SUV when it flipped onto its side, said Belmont Police Lt. Dan DeSmidt of Belmont police. Other students were injured or shaken up as they tried to escape the oncoming car, DeSmidt said.

In all, 13 children and the SUV's male driver were taken to a half-dozen area hospitals, according to Fire Chief Doug Fry of the Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department. Information on their injuries and conditions was not immediately available.

"All I can say is for some unknown reason the SUV lost control," Fry said.

The SUV's driver was at the school in Belmont, located about 25 miles south of San Francisco, to pick up a student, although DeSmidt said he did not know his relationship to the youngster.

The Honda was registered to Mauro H. Yan and Lorenza Y. Yan, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles. A telephone listing for Mauro Yan was not in service.

No conclusions about incident yet
At the scene, investigators combed through debris spread over a 30-foot-wide radius, including the SUV's front grill and discarded sneakers and backpacks. They noted the absence of skid marks that would have indicated the driver tried to stop, but said it was too soon to draw conclusions about what that meant.

"It certainly all falls into the investigation, but at this point we have no cause to believe it was an intentional act," DeSmidt said.

Parents and school staff members who saw the students get hit used a jack and their collective muscle to right the SUV under which several children were pinned, he said, adding that the youngsters may have escaped getting crushed because of the vehicle's relatively high clearance and the angle at which it landed.

"They are little kids and they can fortunately fit under there," he said.

'Possibly life-threatening injuries'
Four teenage boys were admitted to Stanford Medical Center, two with potentially life-threatening injuries, including a head injury and a possibly fractured pelvis, hospital spokeswoman Jonnie Banks said. The other pair had superficial injuries, he said.

"I want to emphasize these are possibly life-threatening injuries. They are still being assessed. Any head injury could be life-threatening, as could any possibly fractured pelvis,' she said.

One young victim was taken by helicopter to Eden Medical Center's trauma center in Castro Valley but was likely to be treated and released, hospital spokeswoman Cassandra Phelps said.

Several other hospitals, including San Francisco General Hospital, reported receiving patients involved in the incident.

Students were leaving school at the end of a day shortened because of standardized testing, school officials said. They planned to open as usual on Thursday, but would cancel the tests for the remainder of the week.

"It happened right as school let out so I'm sure a lot of students saw what happened," said Lawrence Chu, office manager at Fellowship Bible Church, which is near the school.

The church's pastor, who is also the Belmont police chaplain, went to the school to counsel students shaken up after witnessing the crash, Chu said.