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Van Carrying Special Needs Patients Crashes Into Pittsburgh House

Six people are injured after a van crashes into a Pittsburgh house.
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Six people riding in a Mercy Behavioral Health van en route to an annual picnic at Sandcastle late Sunday morning were injured -- four of whom taken to the hospital -- after the van crashed into a house in Pittsburgh's Brighton Heights neighborhood.

Pittsburgh police told WTAE Channel 4 Action News that the occupants suffered minor injuries after the van's driver lost control after stopping on Orchlee Street to pick up a gift basket at an employee's house shortly before 11:30 a.m.

Police told WTAE Channel 4 Action News that the driver may have hit the gas pedal instead of the brake pedal. The van contained six special needs patients, three staff members from Mercy Behavioral Health and the driver.

Police said four people were taken to Allegheny General Hospital with minor injuries, and two others were treated at the scene. WTAE Channel 4's Ashlie Hardway reported shortly after 3:45 p.m. that three of the hospitalized patients were released with bumps and bruises.

"Right now, we know very little, but what's important is that there were no serious injuries," Mercy spokeswoman Kimberly Flaherty said.

The unidentified driver is a woman in her late 40s to early 50s. Mercy officials could not say if she had a commercial driver's license or training, but the facility had recently launched a new training for operating large vehicles. The driver had yet to take part.

Flaherty said no one should be hesitant about riding in Mercy Behavior Health vehicles, which are all within warranty. Mercy officials said no malfunctioning vehicles are put on the road.

"No one should be concerned. This was an accident. Accidents do happen," Flaherty said. "We're just so pleased that everyone is OK. We'll be very careful and we take the responsibility of these people very, very seriously."

While Mercy officials continue to investigate the crash, splintered wood protruded from a destroyed stairwell at the house, Hardway reported.

"I was laying down, and, all of a sudden, I heard a thump. It sounded like one car hit another one," said Joe Hendershot, a resident of the house struck by the van. "Then, I heard a second one, and I knew that one hit the house. I wasn't sure how that would've happened."

The driver is not facing any sort of disciplinary action and ultimately may not, pending the outcome of a continuing investigation.

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