A school bus driver was suspended without pay Tuesday as the investigation continued into what caused his bus to careened through a cemetery before crashing into a North Philadelphia house Monday afternoon.
Four elementary school students -- two from Henry Charles School and two from Henry Houston School – between the ages of 9 to 13 were treated at St. Christopher’s Hospital and released after the Durham School Services bus hit a brick house near the corner of N 9th and W Cambria Streets (across from Fairhill Cemetery), according to the Philadelphia Fire Department.
Witnesses say the driver was on his cell phone at the time of the crash. The driver denies that claim.
“He said he was not on his cell phone at the time of the accident,” Durham School Services spokesman Dan Fiorilli told NBC10's Lu Ann Cahn.
Neither police nor the bus company released the 40-year-old driver’s name. Fiorilli did say that the driver has been with Durham for the past eight months and was driving his regular route.
Witnesses told NBC10 that the driver was talking on his cell phone for at least a block as the bus sideswiped a few cars, hit a metal gate and eventually crashed into the house with a loud bang.
"He was on the cell phone... even as the accident was occurring you could still see him on the cell phone," witness Myra Haynes said.
The company says his last phone call was at 2:40 p.m. -- about 30 minutes before the crash. The next call after that came when he reported the wreck.
The driver claimed he served to avoid a child and that caused him to lose control of the bus.
“That was part of our investigation, he did say that… we are still investigating right now,” Fiorelli said.
Investigators hope that a camera on the bus will help to figure out exactly what happened.