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One victim suffers fatal injuries; her husband escapes serious harm

Three citations have been issued to the driver of the school bus that struck two pedestrians in Southeast Portland on July 9. The bus driver, 55-year-old Billie Jean Neel of Gladstone, was cited by Portland Police on two counts of failing to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk and one count of careless driving causing death.

The school bus, owned by the West Linn-Wilsonville School District and operated by First Student Inc., struck two pedestrians in a Portland crosswalk at 1:08 p.m.

The victims, residents of the neighborhood where the accident occurred, have been identified as Renee Jean Bates and her husband, Shawn Dale Bates, both 43. Renee Bates died of her injuries at a Portland hospital. Her husband was 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 indicate that the pedestrians were walking in the crosswalk when the school bus struck them in the right-turn-only lane, according to police.

An eyewitness told KOIN 6 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."

A friend of the couple, who was walking with them at the time, said that 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 said. "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 her injuries.

Two passengers on the bus, both children, were uninjured.

The children were escorted to a nearby school, and another bus was dispatched to drive them home as their parents were notified of the incident. It is not clear whether the children were from WL-WL or why the bus was in Portland.

The bus driver, 55-year-old Billie Jean Neel of Gladstone, remained at the scene and was cooperating with investigators. She was hired by First Student in 1989 and had a clean driving record. Police say that Neel was not impaired at the time of the accident.

"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."

Traffic officers are continuing to investigate the circumstances of the crash.

— KOIN 6 Local News contributed to this story.

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