Gladstone school bus driver cited in pedestrian’s death

Find out why this tragedy adds to heartrending problems already faced by this Centennial Neighborhood family in the past year …

Westbound SE Division Street is closed for most of the afternoon on July 9 as police investigate a school bus vs. pedestrian accident.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

The family of Shawn Bates has faced difficult circumstances in the past year.

About a year ago, they were displaced – losing almost everything – after the outer East Portland apartment unit next to theirs caught fire, in the Centennial Neighborhood. Then, Shawn’s wife, Renée Bates, underwent surgery for a brain tumor – after which she contracted meningitis.

Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division Investigators use their Total Station equipment to document the crash scene on SE Division Street, where a school bus ran down pedestrians.

But things went from bad to very much worse on July 9, at about 1:00 p.m., when the couple was on a shopping trip, and started to cross SE Division Street at SE 148th Avenue, on their way to the Fred Meyer store.

Moments after the couple got off a Route 4 TriMet bus, they were hit in the intersection by short-length “First Student, Inc.” school bus, #0633. The vehicle was southbound on SE 148th Avenue, intending to use the right-hand turn lane to head west on SE Division Street.

The green marks on the pavement show the position of the school bus, after it struck and seriously injured a pedestrian.

“It looked like a group of people were crossing [the right-hand-turn lane] to cross the street,” witness Joel Wretenauer told East Portland News after speaking with police.

“The bus was stopped,” Wretenauer continued. “The people walked out around the front of the bus. It looked like they made it about half way across, when the bus drove forward.

“I don’t think the driver saw them,” Wretenauer added. “I heard someone yell to watch out, but a couple of people went down after the bus hit them.”

About a half hour after the accident, Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Public Information Officer Sgt. Pete Simpson reported that a female adult victim was found suffering from “traumatic injuries. She has been transported to a Portland hospital for treatment. Her husband was also struck by did not require any medical attention.”

The PPB Traffic Division Major Crash Team interviewed numerous witnesses and used a Total Station surveying tool to document the crash.

This photo of Renée Bates was a favorite of her husband’s, he told reporters. Contributed family photo

Four hours after the accident occurred, Simpson said that Renée Bates had died from injuries sustained in the accident.

The First Student Inc. school bus was being operated for the West Linn-Wilsonville School District. “It was carrying two children who were not injured,” Simpson said. “The bus operator remained at the scene and cooperated with the investigation.”

The accident investigation continues throughout the afternoon.

Later, Simpson said the school bus driver, 55-year-old Billie Jean Neel of Gladstone, “was not impaired at the time of the crash.”

Several media reports say that Neel had a “clean driving record”, and had been driving for the school bus company since 1989.

The following day, Simpson said that Neel had been issued traffic citations for two counts of “Careless Driving Causing Death to a Vulnerable Road User” and “Fail to Yield to Pedestrians in a Crosswalk.”

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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