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School bus driver denies texting just before crash | News

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School bus driver denies texting just before crash

Sarasota, Florida -- During an investigation into a fender bender involving a school bus and a Waste Management garbage truck, Sarasota Police say students told them the bus driver was using a cell phone on or about the time of the crash.

Officers say around 3:40 p.m., the garbage truck was stuck in traffic at a green light at the intersection of Tuttle Avenue and Ringling Boulevard when the school bus rear-ended it.

PHOTOS: Sarasota school bus crash with garbage truck

According to crash report, the garbage truck driver stopped because traffic was backed up in the intersection due to the light at the next intersection being red, and decided to stop to wait until the driver felt comfortable he could clear the intersection. 

At the same time, the school bus driver said she quickly looked in the rearview mirror to check on some children who were acting up, and when she glanced back at the road ahead she saw the garbage truck was stopped and could not stop in time.

Twenty-five children were on the bus that was coming from Gulf Gate Elementary School and heading to the Boys and Girls Club on Fruitville Road in Sarasota.

Two of the students independently told officers they saw the driver holding her cell phone before the crash and it appeared as though she may have been texting, or about to text someone.

When police spoke with the driver, she admitted she uses her phone as a clock and looked at it earlier in the route, but that she did not use it in any way before the crash.

Officers say they will investigate further if she was using her phone at the time of the crash. Audrey Howe's supervisor told officers at the scene that many drivers do use their phones to monitor time during their routes.

Several children were checked out for injuries by fire rescue crews. None of them were taken to the hospital. A passenger in the garbage truck was taken to the hospital for treatment after complaining of back pain.

Howe was charged with careless driving.

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