Stolen school bus crashes, driver flees

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SALT LAKE COUNTY -- A police chase involving a stolen school bus ended in a crash Thursday morning. Officers are still searching for the driver of the bus.

Police say the bus was stolen from the Canyons School District bus yard at 173 E. 9300 South in Sandy. The bus was empty except for the driver.

A security officer at the lot noticed the bus idling and became suspicious because the district is on fall break.

"Immediately, the bus came forward and exited the lot. Our security team member then followed at a safe distance... (and) called police," said Canyons School District spokeswoman Jennifer Toomer-Cook.

The guard followed the bus onto Interstate 15 at 9000 South, where troopers picked up the pursuit. When the driver wouldn't stop, other agencies became involved.

UHP Sgt. Larry Mower said, "My trooper located the bus at 4500 South northbound on I-15 and tried to initiate a traffic stop. The driver of the bus didn't stop, obviously."

Officers pursued the bus on I-15, then onto I-80 west, where speeds reached 70 mph. Dash-cam video shows the trooper with lights and sirens on, chasing the bus as it straddles and changes lanes.

At one point, the driver slams on the brakes and you can hear the trooper say, "He tried to get me."

A Taylorsville K-9 unit was parked alongside I-15 at 3300 South waiting to join the chase, when the driver of the bus suddenly veered the vehicle toward it.

"The bus sideswiped that one, but no one was hurt," said Mower.

The bus then exited onto Redwood Road. The driver ran a red light and troopers terminated the pursuit.

The speeds of the pursuit weren't very high at all and the driver wasn't going very fast. It doesn't look like a lot of damage to (the bus).

–Sgt. Larry Mower

Salt Lake City police located the bus a few minutes later. It had crashed into a tree at 500 North and 1465 West. When officers arrived, the driver had fled the scene. Salt Lake City police officers, Utah Highway Patrol troopers, K-9s and Sandy police set up a containment area as they looked for the driver. They do not have a description of him.

"We're canvassing the neighborhood right now hoping someone saw something, heard something, or maybe we'll get some kind of a lead, but right now we don't have a lot to go on," Mower said.

The majority of the district's school buses have security cameras on board. The Canyons School District spokeswoman says there was a security camera on the bus, but it was not working.

Troopers are looking to see if surveillance cameras at the bus yard caught the driver on tape.

"There are video surveillance cameras at the yard but it was dark at the time and the yard isn't illuminated," Mower said. "I don't know how well those cameras will show us anything."

Canyons district officials say they will be working with state officials to find new ways to keep the bus yard more secure.

"We are looking into what we need to do," said Toomer-Cook. "We actually have had talks about what to do to improve that."

Toomer-Cook says the gates at the transportation yard are kept open because it's also a state fueling station for emergency vehicles and law enforcement agencies that use the fuel pumps 24 hours a day.

The keys to the bus are kept in lock box which requires a key to gain access.

"We're working with law enforcement in terms of how the person gained access to the vehicle and what went on," Toomer-Cook said.

Troopers say if caught, the driver of the bus could face several charges including fleeing and aggravated assault.


Story written with contributions from Sandra Yi, Randall Jeppesen and Shara Park .

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