Accident claims woman’s life

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 6, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

In the second tragedy in one week involving a Suffolk school bus, a Chesapeake woman was killed Friday morning in a two-vehicle collision.

Emergency crews responded to Bennetts Pasture Road and Kings Highway (Route 125) in north Suffolk around 7:45 a.m. and found 72-year-old Verna M. Vance, of Redfern Lane in Chesapeake, dead at the scene.

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The school bus driver, Evelyn Cartwright, 62, of Suffolk, visibly shaken at the scene, did not sustain injuries, according to Police Sgt. Michael McKenzie. The only student on the bus, who was being transported to Nansemond River High School, was also unharmed.

According to police, the school bus was traveling south on Bennetts Pasture at about 35 miles per hour through the intersection with Kings Highway when it struck the 2003 Honda Accord in the passenger side.

As of late Friday, police were still investigating the accident to determine which vehicle traveled through the red light at the four-way intersection. McKenzie said most of the witnesses reported different versions of the accident, all seemingly confidently in both possible scenarios that the bus or the car had the green light.

There is no camera surveillance at the busy intersection. Police were also fairly confident, McKenzie said, that the lights did not malfunction because of the technology used to control the timing.

According to investigators, the impact of the 26,000-pound bus forced the some 3,000-pound Honda almost 135 feet across the road onto the soft embankment off Bennetts Pasture along with the bus. Grinding marks from the car’s wheels were clearly visible at the scene.

Officers and rescue workers spent most of the morning attempting to reconstruct the accident, which also proved an emotional time for crews, school officials, neighbors and friends of the victim, all visibly distressed by the death.

Betty Shifferly arrived at the scene in shock, grieving the lost of her friend with whom she attended the Berea Church. Vance was also a choir member along with Shifferly.

&uot;We were the best of friends,&uot; Shifferly said as she wiped tears.

Janice Holland, assistant superintendent for Suffolk Public Schools, greeted several onlookers with a hug as they cried and expressed their sympathy. Some of them knew the victim, and some did not.

Another woman, who was first to attempt to assist the accident victim, required treatment for trauma and minor injuries.

&uot;This certainly flies in the face of nobody caring anymore,&uot; said Holland speaking of the woman who tried to help the driver. &uot;She went above and beyond the call of duty.&uot;

On Thursday, a juvenile fired shots into a school bus door window on Cedar and Johnson Streets. No one was injured in this incident. Police have apprehended the suspect.