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Sep 14, 2011 3:20 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Police: Driver Ran Red Light Before Hitting Mini School Bus In Westhampton

Sep 20, 2011 4:20 PM

A mini school bus carrying six people, including three students, collided with an SUV on Old Riverhead Road in Westhampton at around 2:20 p.m. on Wednesday, September 14, just north of the Eastern Suffolk BOCES Westhampton Beach Learning Center, after the driver of the SUV ran a red light, according to New York State Police.

Three students who attend BOCES and two teacher aides suffered minor injuries in the two-car accident, according to State Trooper Richard Gant. A total of six people, including the driver, were on the bus at the time of the crash.

Police said the driver of the SUV—whom they identified last week as Rona Pereira, 31, of Southampton—was traveling north on Old Riverhead Road when she ran a red light at the intersection of Stewart Avenue and struck the side of the bus, causing it to overturn and spin around before coming to a rest on its side, according to Trooper Gant. Ms. Pereira was not injured in the accident.

Police said Ms. Pereira, who does not have a driver’s license, was charged with failing to obey a red light, a traffic infraction, and unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, a violation, according to authorities.

Her attorney, Colin Astarita, who has a law practice in Southampton Village, said in a prepared statement released on Monday that Ms. Pereira does have a New York State driver’s license, adding that she couldn’t produce it immediately following last week’s accident. But State Trooper Kevin Caramore said that Ms. Pereira, who was alone in her car at the time, has only a driver’s permit and violated its conditions by not being under the supervision of a licensed driver at the time of the accident.

“You can’t drive with a permit unless you have a licensed driver [in the car with you],” Trooper Caramore said, adding that her permit expires in 2014. “She was issued a ticket because of the multiple witnesses that saw her run the red light.”

Her attorney, meanwhile, maintains that his client “was very upset by the accident and she takes responsibility for her actions,” Mr. Astarita wrote in the statement. “She is a mother herself and has tried unsuccessfully to determine the condition of the students. While she received some minor bumps and bruises, it was clear from my conversation with her that she was only concerned with the health and condition of the driver and passengers of the school bus.”

Dozens of emergency personnel responded to the accident scene last week. First responders could be seen helping evacuate the students through emergency hatches located toward the rear and on the roof of the bus, which was lying on its passenger side. Several passengers were being treated on stretchers at the scene.

The two teacher aides—Christine Gaska, 27, and Annmarie Whalen, 58—complained of various pains and were transported by the Westhampton War Memorial Ambulance to the Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, according to Trooper Gant. He noted that the students were also taken to the hospital as a precaution. The driver of the bus, Doris Baroni, 35, of Shirley, did not suffer any injuries in the crash.

Trooper Gant said the bus had just come from nearby Gabreski Airport, though it was unclear why the students were visiting the facility.

A woman answering the phone at the Westhampton Beach Learning Center last Wednesday afternoon directed all inquiries to the Eastern Suffolk BOCES public relations office. In a statement issued later that day, the school’s public relations firm, Zimmerman/Edelson Inc., said the bus involved in the accident was owned by First Student in Center Moriches and contracted by the William Floyd School District. It was transporting three students from that district home from the Westhampton Beach Learning Center at the time of the accident.

“Emergency personnel and staff members from the Learning Center removed the students from the bus,” the statement reads. “All three students, who are from the William Floyd UFSD, indicated they were unharmed but were taken to a nearby hospital as a precautionary measure.”

The statement also notes that one of the aides on the bus was injured during the accident. Additionally, the parents of the three students, and William Floyd School District officials, were notified about the accident, the statement concludes.

Officials representing BOCES declined to disclose the ages of the children on the bus, though they said all three were released from the hospital on the day of the crash.

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I know you're just dying to be the first to report local news but can we get some proofreading at the press?

"He added that four fire trucks SAND 23 firefighters from his department responded to the call."

This happens all the time on here.
By Mackey (1), Hampton Bays on Sep 14, 11 4:24 PM
It is a no-brainer as to the cause of the accident - a 50 MPH speed limit in an area where school buses are entering & leaving the highway. It is insane to have that as the posted speed limit (not that seems to make any difference these days). Between the school and the facility for disabled adults on the Gabreski site it has been an accident waiting to happen. During the US open a few years ago when they were parking the spectators at Gabreski, special needs children were held up in hot buses (not ...more
By GMF (1), Center Morichs on Sep 15, 11 9:44 AM
As reported in other news sources, the driver was Rona Pereira, an unlicensed, uninsured, illegal immigrant from Guatemala who ran a red light before hitting the school bus.
By RealityFirst (597), Bridgehampton on Sep 15, 11 3:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
I agree with GMF the speed limit should be lowered! It isn't the first accident on that corner and now that the County pushing to develop the industrial park it will only get worst.
By Woohampton (35), Westhampton Beach on Sep 16, 11 7:34 AM
The speed could be 35 mph, but if someone runs a red light you are going to have an accident!
By pcone (28), hampton bays on Sep 16, 11 8:00 AM
Just another case of an illegal immigrant with no insurance who cant be sued but who wouldn't hesitate to sue a legal citizen (and they can believe me) if it were the other way around. Americans are fed up with all of this. SOMETHING IS GOING TO BLOW UP AND SOON!
By Babyboo (293), Hampton Bays on Sep 16, 11 1:39 PM
The driver walks away with nothing more than a FINE after traumatizing special needs students?! She hit the school bus so hard it FLIPPED and all she gets is a FINE?! There is something seriously wrong with our justice system...
By LocalMom (36), Southampton on Sep 21, 11 4:18 PM