May 26, 2009

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School bus allowed into area of natural gas leak

Gas was shooting out of broken pipe on left side of truck

WALLKILL – It was a situation that could have had deadly consequences, but fortunately, there were no injuries.

A Town of Wallkill Public Works crew was digging at the intersection of Burt Crawford and Silver Lake Scotchtown roads shortly before 8 a.m. Tuesday when a backhoe struck and ruptured a natural gas line. The force of the leak sent dust and dirt into the air with the colorless gas, which made a loud hissing noise as it leaked from the broken pipe.

On three occasions within minutes, a public works supervisor was heard on a town radio channel telling his workers to allow the school buses through.

Town Supervisor John Ward told MidHudsonNews.com it was only one bus and it was allowed to proceed because school children were already waiting in the area to be picked up.

“It was a judgment call,” he said. In the future, though, Ward said the police should be called to make the decision about whether a bus should be allowed in the area or if the kids should be walked to safety.

Middletown Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kenneth Eastwood and Mid-City Transit, the district’s bus provider, were unaware of the situation. Eastwood said he was disturbed about it situation and if the buses had been notified, the buses would have been rerouted. “We are typically notified of any road closing or any problems, and as a result of that, we reroute the buses around those problems. In this particular case, for some reason, we were not notified.”

Ward said the town’s public works commissioner is on vacation, but he will speak to him about this situation upon his return.

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