By Pat Maurer
A snowstorm has been called a factor in the crash between a Farwell school bus and a semi on the corner of Cedar Road and M-115 early Monday morning that caused minor injuries for two children and the semi driver.
Clare County Sheriff’s deputies were called to the scene around 6:48 a.m. by the report of the accident in Freeman Township.
Deputies found that the school bus, driven by 54-year-old John Gretcka of Farwell, was northbound on Cedar and had stopped at the intersection of M-115 to wait for a southbound vehicle to pass, and not seeing the semi due to reduced visibility due to snow thrown up by the car during the early morning storm, started into the intersection where the bus was hit by the southbound semi.
The semi driver, Benjamin Fiorenza 40 of Freeland, attempted to avoid the collision but hit the front of the school bus, according to the release by Clare County Undersheriff Dwayne Miedzianowski.
Fiorenza, Gretcka and two children reportedly had minor injuries and were transported to MidMichigan Medical Center – Clare where they were treated and released. The rest of the children on the bus were transferred to another bus and taken to Farwell Schools.
Farwell Superintendent Carl Seiter said Monday in a Facebook post, “Today was a day that nobody wants to experience; at 6:30 a.m., bus 10-1 was involved in a collision at the corner of Cedar (Twin Lakes) and 115. There were 15 students on the bus.”
He continued, “One student was evaluated in the ambulance by paramedics and then released at the scene. The other was transported by ambulance to MMRMC-Clare. That student was examined and released before 9 a.m. A third student was taken in later by a parent after complaining of pain. The report from her mom was that she had a cracked rib. The driver of the semi was examined and released at approximately 10 a.m.”
Seiter said, “I am just extremely thankful that everyone is okay without any major injuries. I cannot say the same from an emotional standpoint. It will take some time to heal from that trauma.”
He added, “The Northern Logistics [semi] driver is a hero as far as I am concerned. His decision to risk his own life and take the truck into the ditch is what saved the lives of many. Thank you Ben Fiorenza! A father of three kids made a split second decision without hesitation. This action is what saved the kids. Although he is sore, Ben is fine. Ben deserves the highest amount of praise and thanks from all of us. Our bus driver and Ben are really having a difficult time. I want them to know that both are in my prayers.”
“Both drivers, as standard DOT [Department of Transportation] protocol, have been given a drug/alcohol screening,” Seiter said. He urged other parents to talk to their students to “about how important it is for them to be seated and facing forward during a bus ride. All the kids were sitting down properly otherwise they would have been thrown and potentially hurt more seriously.”
Lincoln Township Fire Department, Surrey Township Fire Department, Mobile Medical Ambulance Service, Quality Wrecker Service and the Clare County Road Commission assisted the Sheriff’s Department at the scene, Miedzianowski said.