Driver cited for careless driving, failure to yield

A school bus owned by the West Linn-Wilsonville School District and operated by First Student Inc. was involved in a fatal traffic accident in Southeast Portland on July 9. The bus struck two pedestrians in a Portland crosswalk at about 1:08 p.m.

The victims, residents of the neighborhood where the accident occurred, are Renee Jean Bates and her husband, Shawn Dale Bates, both 43. by: COURTESY OF KOIN LOCAL 6 - A school bus owned by the West Linn-Wilsonville School District and operated by First Student Inc. was involved in a fatal traffic accident in Southeast Portland on Tuesday.

According to police, Renee Bates died of her injuries at a Portland hospital.

Her husband was also struck by the bus but did not require medical attention.

The accident occurred at the corner of SE 148th Avenue and Division Street.

Preliminary reports, according to Portland police, indicate that the pedestrians were walking in the crosswalk when the school bus struck them in the right-turn-only lane.

An eyewitness told KOIN 6 Local News that the pedestrians “tried to walk in front of the bus — and stepped out of the crosswalk to go around it instead of waiting to get a (signal) from the driver.” However, that information is still under investigation.

A friend of the couple, who was walking with them at the time, said Renee Bates thought the driver was aware of the pedestrians’ presence in the crosswalk.

“She kind of just let the bus driver take (the) responsibility of stopping,” the friend told KOIN 6 Local News. “But the bus driver didn’t stop.”

Portland police and medical personnel responding at the scene determined that Renee Bates had suffered severe injuries. She was transported to a Portland hospital for treatment but did not survive.

Two passengers on the bus, both children, were uninjured. According to First Student Transportation Manager Irene Whittaker, the passengers were secondary school students attending a year-round special needs program in Portland. The school district contracts with First Student for bus services.

“The students were whisked away to the school, which was only about half a block away,” Whittaker said. “The driver said they did not see what took place.”

After Whittaker reported the accident to the school district, the district notified the students’ parents.

The students were transported home by their parents on Tuesday and returned to the school on Wednesday with a different driver, according to Whittaker.

The bus driver, 55-year-old Billie Jean Neel of Gladstone, was cited on July 11 for careless driving causing death and two counts of failing to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. Following the accident, she remained at the scene and cooperated with investigators.

Neel was hired by First Student in 1989 and had a clean driving record. Police say she was not impaired at the time of the accident. The investigation is ongoing.

“Our first priority is dealing with the incident at the scene and dealing with the local authorities,” Maurice Harris, a First Student spokesman, said. “We would like to express our condolences to the woman’s family and especially her husband. We will continue to cooperate with the local authorities and remain committed to safety.”

West Linn-Wilsonville School District Director of Operations Tim Woodley also expressed condolences on behalf of the district.

“Our school district is deeply saddened by this tragedy and we offer our sincere condolences to the families affected. Support will be provided to students who may have been affected by this incident,” he said.

— KOIN 6 Local News contributed to this story.

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