Horrified onlookers said a schoolgirl was hurled 25 metres and left curled in a ball on the pavement, her shoes torn off, when she was hit by a recycling truck that went into a ditch.
Lydia Herrle, 13, had just stepped off her school bus Thursday at her home on Erb’s Road.
The bus was stopped on a clear, straight stretch of road. Its stop sign was extended and its flashers activated to stop traffic in both directions.
The collision left the girl fighting for her life, airlifted to Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto.
Her grandmother, Elsie Herrle, said Thursday evening that Lydia is in stable, but critical condition. She is in a medically-induced coma and has numerous injuries including bleeding in her brain and internal bleeding from many broken ribs.
News about the crash spread quickly locally through social media. Herrle’s Farm Market constantly uses Twitter as @HerrlesMarket to connect with its customers, family and friends. Last night, messages of support and offers prayers were offered inside and outside its 2,725 followers. Friday at 7:30 a.m. @HerrlesMarket replied:
“Update: Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Not much change through the night, Lydia is stable, but still critical.”
Family, friends and neighbours have complained about high speeds and reckless drivers on the rural road.
Waterloo Regional Police say the truck came upon the bus from behind, clipped its right rear, passed the bus on the inside as the girl stepped out, and crashed into the ditch. Both vehicles were eastbound.
“It is still under investigation,” Sgt. Frank Heinrich said at the scene. “The cause of this collision is not yet known.”
Police closed the road for hours.
A handful of students were on the bus, which came from Baden Public School. Nobody else was injured.
Kristine Mosburger heard a bang from her home across the street. She rushed out to call 911 and saw the truck in the ditch before she saw the girl on the road.
“I looked down and I noticed that it was Lydia,” she said, tears flowing, voice breaking. “She’s the little girl across the street.”
“I just did a prayer right there. She was lying on her side. All I can remember is seeing that she’s not even wearing her shoes anymore, she was thrown so far.”
Christine Leis heard the crash and turned to see the truck smash into the ditch. She was working outside the closed market, her back to traffic, when the school bus stopped to drop Lydia off. She rushed over to find her curled up on the pavement, breathing but unresponsive.
Elsie Herrle came home from shopping to discover the crash near her house. She was told her granddaughter had been hit. “All I can hope is that everything’s OK,” she said at the scene, her voice breaking.
“This is something that shouldn’t happen. They’ve got all these rules in place so that school buses are protected.”
Jo-Anne Soye, principal of Baden Public School, struggled with her emotions, waiting with a handful of students who were interviewed by police. “They’re shaken, emotionally and physically,” she said. “It’s a very, very frightening experience.
“It’s hard to understand how this could happen.”
Mosburger and others say people drive too fast on Erb’s Road and take unnecessary passing risks. Last year she called police about a car that blew past a stopped school bus in front of her home. More recently she saw another driver do the same thing.
“School buses have to be hot pink now because nobody sees orange anymore,” she said, her anger rising. “They just don’t care.”
“It’s just not safe, this road. People drive too fast and are out of control. They’re just so worried about getting from point A to point B.”
Mosburger has two young sons who catch their school bus on the road. “I don’t know how I’m ever going to let my kids get on and off the bus again.”
Erb’s Road is about to be repaved where the collision happened. Neighbours say the road won’t get the paved shoulders they want for improved safety.
The neighbouring Nedeljkovich family knows traffic risks all too well. Calvin Nedeljkovich was killed nearby in 2006 while cycling on Erb’s Road. He was 17.
“It’s just not safe,” said Calvin’s sister, Danielle Nedeljkovich. She said impatient drivers tailgate other cars and drive too fast. Her family rushed over to offer help and support to the Herrle family, who was so kind when Calvin was killed.
The recycling truck is operated by Plein Disposal of Elmira. The company would not comment at the scene.
The school bus is operated by Sharp Bus Lines. The driver would not comment at the scene. “He’s pretty shaken up,” said Sherry Roswell, a branch manager with the bus company.