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updated: 4/30/2013 6:37 PM

Authorities say no charges in crash involving a school bus near Wadsworth that injured more than 30 students

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  • Lake County authorities said Tuesday no charges will be filed in connection with a crash April 5 in Newport Township involving a school bus carrying 34 elementary school students.

    Lake County authorities said Tuesday no charges will be filed in connection with a crash April 5 in Newport Township involving a school bus carrying 34 elementary school students.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer


Charges will not be filed in connection with the April 5 crash in northern Lake County involving a school bus that killed one driver and injured more than 30 elementary school students, authorities said Tuesday.

Officials cited "conflicting statements" from witnesses regarding the color of the traffic signal at Route 173 and Kilbourne Road near Wadsworth at the time of the crash as part of the investigation.

Information released Tuesday also showed prescription drugs were found in the system of Beach Park resident Philip Smith, the 62-year-old driver of the Jeep Wrangler that collided with the bus. Smith died in the crash.

"They do have a list of medications, but the coroner isn't going to release that at this time because their report is not finalized," said Sgt. Sara Balmes, spokeswoman for the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

The number and types of prescription drugs and what effect they may have had on Smith were not disclosed pending final lab results, Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd said.

"We're still waiting for the laboratory values on the blood that measures medication levels, as well as anything else," Rudd said. That could take from two to six weeks, he added.

But authorities consider the investigation closed. The Lake County state's attorney's office reviewed the case and charges will not be forthcoming, according to the sheriff's office.

"This investigation is over," sheriff's Lt. Ed Haras said.

Mike Ori, chief of the traffic and misdemeanor division at the state's attorney's office, said a review of the investigative file showed there was not enough to charge anybody with a violation of the vehicle code.

"There's just not good cause for us to seek charges against the bus driver in this case," he said.

The bus carrying 34 students to Newport Elementary School in Beach Park was traveling west on Route 173, while the Wrangler driven by Smith was traveling south on Kilbourne. The bus flipped after colliding with the Wrangler and rolled into a Jeep Cherokee that had been traveling east on Route 173.

According to Haras, the bus driver and a driver behind the bus said the bus entered the intersection when the light was green. Another witness who was traveling north said the signal was green on Kilbourne Road at the time, he added.

"This case ultimately will end up in civil court. They'll all hire experts on accident reconstruction, and they'll all have their opinions," Haras said. "It was just a tragic event for everybody involved."

Most students were treated for minor injuries and released, but one did suffer a skull fracture. The bus driver and the driver and passenger of the Cherokee also suffered minor injuries.

Rudd declined to discuss specifics of the prescription drugs in Smith's system but did say that "allegedly there is some musculoskeletal problems that required medication."

Rudd said he was waiting for the "finalized quantitative report" before commenting on the findings and whether the drugs may have played a role in the crash.

No formal report on Smith's cause of death was issued, according to Rudd.

"We did not issue a cause of death because we want to analyze the medication in the man's system before we do anything like that," Rudd said. "Obviously, anybody can see from what happened it was most likely the result of trauma. We're not being specific. We never issued anything written as to saying it's trauma."

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