A city school bus driver has been charged with running over a 67-year-old woman with his bus in a nearby suburb, then leaving the scene.
Ernest Brevard, 71, of Wilkins Township, had just dropped off students from Pittsburgh at a Catholic school in Forest Hills when his bus allegedly ran over Alberta Slaczka, Allegheny County police said in a criminal complaint filed Friday. The accident, which critically injured Slaczka, happened about 8 a.m. Wednesday.
Police did not immediately charge Brevard because they didn't know at first whether the driver even realized he had hit the woman with the lumbering vehicle. But that changed after “witnesses came forward who saw Brevard run over the victim, circle the area to see that he struck a person, then flee,” police said in a news release.
Brevard was interviewed at his home Thursday night and denied striking the woman. He told police he was aware of a body lying in the road, but that he just got out of his bus briefly to see what was going on along with other bystanders, according to a criminal complaint.
That's not what Tom Wypychowski, named as a key witness by police, told WTAE-TV that he saw.
“I saw something roll up under the school bus. I didn't think anything of it, it was 50 feet ahead. Once I pulled up and realized it was human, it smacked me in the face,” he told the station. “It was sheer shock that you could run someone over and not actually stop. I won't even run over a dog without trying to find the owner, but to do it to a human being is almost unthinkable.”
Det. Scott Scherer told The Associated Press that Wypychowski didn't come forward immediately because he believed the driver had already turned himself in.
Wypychowski “was actually following the bus, sees the back wheels go over the body, so he starts following him,” Scherer said.
Wypychowski called 911, but was disconnected as he followed Brevard's vehicle. Wypychowski told police he didn't call back because he assumed the driver had returned to the scene to surrender, not realizing that Brevard left moments later, Scherer said.
A woman who identified herself as Brevard's wife answered his home phone, but she said her husband wouldn't be commenting. She said he has an attorney but refused to name him.
Pittsburgh Public Schools spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said Brevard works for MIL Transit Inc., a Pittsburgh firm that is one of 17 carriers the district uses to transport students. She said Brevard's bus had dropped city students at Christ Lutheran School before the accident. The city school district is responsible for busing parochial school students who live in the city, she said.
A man who answered the phone at MIL Transit declined to comment.
It was not immediately clear if Brevard is still employed by the company or whether he has been suspended or otherwise sanctioned.
A district judge allowed Brevard to remain free after arraigning him on a felony hit-and-run count. Police also filed five traffic citations.
Slaczka was taken to UPMC Mercy hospital with a broken hip and ribs and remained in critical condition Friday.