Crime - Sacto 911

El Dorado County students on bus escape serious injury in suspected DUI head-on crash

Minor injuries were reported Thursday morning when a school bus collided head-on with a suspected drunken driver near the town of Somerset in El Dorado County.

The collision occurred about 6:50 a.m. when an El Dorado Union High School District school bus en route to Union Mine High School collided head-on with another vehicle on Grizzly Flat Road just north of Kendra Lane, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Officer David Blood, the investigating officer, said 24-year-old Steven Gruber of Grizzly Flat was southbound in a Chevrolet Equinox coming out of a curve on Grizzly Flat Road. He dozed off and his vehicle drifted left across the roadway into the path of the northbound school bus with 32 students on board, Blood said.

Blood said the bus driver, 53-year-old Jennifer Shields, has been driving school buses in El Dorado County for years. She told the officer that she frequently sees drivers drift into the oncoming lane of traffic but they typically correct in time to avoid a collision. In this case, Blood said, Shields reported she couldn’t see the driver of the Equinox. In an effort to avoid a collision, she steered the bus across the roadway and the Equinox struck the right front of the bus.

If Shields had not taken the evasive action and the Equinox had struck more toward the center front of the bus, the consequences could have been much worse, Blood said.

He said Gruber suffered numerous cuts and puncture wounds and was treated at a hospital, then booked into El Dorado County Jail on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Dina Gentry, spokeswoman for the El Dorado Union High School District, said that no students were seriously injured. Two students on the bus were transported to the hospital as a precaution. Contrary to an earlier report, the bus driver was not taken to a hospital.

Blood said Gruber’s vehicle was a total loss, and the right front of the school bus sustained major damage.

The officer said he had viewed video from a camera aboard the bus and he was impressed by how well the driver and students responded to the crash.

“The young people on the bus were well composed,” he said.