Truck driver cleared by grand jury in collision with SH bus

The truck driver involved in a collision with a Sweet Home school bus on May 16 was cleared of any criminal conduct by a Polk County grand jury on Aug. 22.

On May 16, the Sweet Home school bus, driven by Addy Hight and carrying the freshman baseball team, collided with a truck driven by Hugh Reeves, 44, of Salem.

The accident occurred when the truck jack-knifed, crossed the center line and struck the bus.

At least, four students, two coaches and the two drivers were injured in the accident. Hight is still recovering from injuries sustained in the crash.

The baseball team had been headed for a game with Central in Independence.

The tanker truck, owned by Moo Lines of Stayton, was hauling milk.

An investigation and reconstruction were conducted by the Oregon State Police and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

The grand jury heard all of the evidence, Polk County Deputy District Attorney Mark Heslinga said. The feeling in the jury “was that the driver did not commit a crime.”

The grand jury’s decision does not determine any civil or regulatory responsibility for the accident, Heslinga said. “These issues are for other forums.”

To be charged criminally, the driver would have had to have consciously disregarded a known risk, Heslinga said.

Two problems contributed to the jack-knifing of the truck, Heslinga said. First, four brakes on the trailer were out of adjustment, but there was no evidence that the driver was aware of that. Second, the driver may have pushed the brakes too hard. With the tractor brakes in adjustment and trailer brakes out of adjustment, the truck jack-knifed.

There was no alcohol or drugs involved in the accident, Heslinga said. Neither driver was speeding, “none of the types of things we see in criminal cases.”

Any issues surrounding the brakes are a matter for ODOT, Heslinga said.