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Investigation underway into deadly Idaho bus crash

Friday - 12/6/2013, 12:26pm  ET

Idaho State Police officers investigate a fatal collision Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, between a school bus and a dump truck in Kuna, Idaho. One boy, 11-year-old Daniel Robert Cook, died in the accident and four other children aboard the school bus were taken to the hospital with injuries. Two were treated and released, while the other two remained in a Boise hospital. (AP Photo/John Miller)

JOHN MILLER
Associated Press

KUNA, Idaho (AP) -- It could take weeks to determine what caused a rural Idaho school bus crash that killed an 11-year-old boy and injured four of his schoolmates, a law enforcement official says.

Daniel Robert Cook died of blunt force trauma Thursday morning after the bus collided with a dump truck on a two-lane country road about 20 miles west of Boise, Canyon County Coroner Vicki DeGeus-Morris said.

Four other children on the bus were taken to a hospital. Two of them were released after treatment, and the other two were transported to another facility for specialized care. Details on their injuries were not released.

The bus driver also was taken to a hospital for monitoring; Idaho State Police said she was distraught after the accident but not physically injured.

The bus was carrying 12 children to Crimson Point Elementary School when the wreck occurred at about 8 a.m. in an area of small farms between Nampa and Kuna, on the edge of the Snake River Canyon. The truck driver was uninjured.

State Police investigators are still trying to determine exactly what happened and who might be at fault. Because the crash involved a fatality, charges could be forthcoming, said Cpl. Timothy Davidson.

"It's not just an infraction. It's going to be a criminal charge, more than likely," he said.

Officers did acceleration tests at the intersection with a similar bus Thursday afternoon, attempting to recreate what happened in the moments preceding impact.

State Police Sgt. John Burke said a final assessment could take weeks.

"We can't really speculate," he said. "We need to gather more information and continue the investigation."

Sheriff's spokeswoman Theresa Baker said all the kids on the bus were sixth-graders or younger. The names of the injured children were not immediately released.

Daniel died at the scene.

Adam Cobb, whose son was friends with Daniel, was at the crash site later to collect the deceased boy's belongings for the family. Cobb's son wasn't among the kids on the bus.

"It's a terrible loss not only for the family but for the community," Cobb said. "Daniel loved to wrestle and play football. He was just the kind of kid you'd want at your home. We love him -- he was just a good boy."

Daniel was a sixth-grader at Crimson Point, in the Kuna School District. He lived nearby and would have been on the bus for only a few minutes before the crash, Cobb said.

Investigators said Daniel's parents arrived at the scene about 30 minutes after the wreck and were unaware of their son's condition. Burke said the father knew where his son sat on the bus and immediately recognized the damage to that section of the vehicle.

"It's a terrible thing," Burke said, adding that Daniel's family is devastated. "They need our prayers, and all we can do is hope they can get through it."

Investigators say the dump truck was traveling north on Happy Valley Road when the driver approached the four-way intersection. The speed limit was 50 mph, and the truck had no stop sign. The bus was traveling east on the intersecting roadway, which did have a stop sign.

Weather and road conditions were not factors, and speed before impact appeared to be low, investigators said.

The rear right section of the bus had visible damage, with broken windows and a torn metal exterior. The front section of the dump truck was lying in a nearby yard.

The truck belonged to the driver, whose name was not released.

A routine inspection of the bus found no maintenance issues, but a similar inspection of the truck found multiple equipment violations. Davidson said it's unclear whether those deficiencies played a role in the crash.

Idaho Department of Education Spokeswoman Melissa McGrath said the Kuna School District runs its own bussing operation, meaning it buys the vehicles and hires its own drivers.

The last time a student died in a bus crash in Idaho was in Boise in 1969, she said.

___

Associated Press writer Rebecca Boone and correspondent Todd Dvorak in Boise contributed to this report.


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