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Semi driver under arrest after school bus crash leaves 16 injured in Warsaw

WARSAW, Ind. (WISH) — A semi-driver is under arrest for operating while intoxicated after crashing into a school bus, leaving 16 people hurt initially, but now all are in stable condition, according to Warsaw police.

The crash happened at 8:06 p.m. Saturday night on U.S. 30 near Center Street. Central Dispatch notified patrol officers of reports of a tractor trailer with New Jersey registration swerving into other lanes and driving at excessive speed. The semi was reportedly driving off the roadway as it was entering the Warsaw city limits westbound on U.S. 30, police said.

Victor Santos, 58, from Brooklyn, New York was operating a truck and trailer out of the state of New Jersey. 

Two minutes later, as officers were on their way to intercept, they were advised that Santos had just struck a school bus at the intersection of Center St. and the bus was on its side.  Multiple first responders converged on the intersection as it was quickly determined to have multiple injuries to youth. Santos continued west and came to a stop driving off the roadway into the ditch an eighth of a mile from the intersection, police said.

Based on initial investigation, it is believed at least one of the juveniles was ejected from the bus as it made a left or northbound turn onto Center St. from the eastbound left turn lane.  The semi struck the bus in the right rear.  Officers and other emergency personnel began attending to multiple injuries from critical to minor.  Confirming with eyewitnesses and a nearby surveillance camera, Santos disregarded a red light by several seconds before striking the bus during its turn. 

Upon contacting Santos, officers had reason to suspect alcohol was a factor in this collision. Officers detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person and in the cab of the semi, as well as slurred speech.  Warsaw officers began an OWI investigation.  After failing standardized field sobriety tests, Santos was asked to consent to a chemical test but refused. 

A search warrant was applied for and granted, allowing officers to have hospital staff take a blood draw, which will be submitted for official testing, police said.

Warsaw Police said the bus was carrying hockey players from Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago. Investigators found that the bus load of youth were in town to spend the night for a weekend hockey tournament taking place in Culver. After having dinner in Warsaw, they headed to a local hotel.

Two critically injured youth were immediately transported by ambulance to Fort Wayne Lutheran.  Additional injured youth were transported by ambulance to Lutheran Kosciusko Hospital.  The remainder of the players, coaches, and bus driver were transported by a bus provided by Warsaw Community Schools and went to LKH.  Warsaw officers were assigned to the hospital to assist with triage and notification of family for the minors, police said.

Police say there were 23 students, two adult coaches, and the bus driver on the Illinois school bus. Originally police had accounted for 16 injuries, three being very critical, and 10 considered with no injuries or sign offs at the local hospital.  Ages of the students range between 14 and 17 years old, with most children 15 years of age.  All family members have been notified of this accident.  The bus driver, in cooperation with investigators, consented to a blood draw due to the seriousness of this collision. 

As of Sunday, police confirm that all including most critical are in stable condition.

This is still an active investigation and additional charges may be added or enhanced based on the outcome. 

Santos was taken into custody for operating while intoxicated and is being held on a 48-hour hold put in place by the Kosciusko County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for formal charges pertaining to Operating While Intoxicated, Causing Serious Bodily Injury, a level 5 felony.