A Tuesday crash on U.S. Route 202 involving a bus carrying students was the first in a series of pileups that eventually would involve nearly a dozen vehicles and send five people to the hospital.

There were reports of numerous injuries, ranging from complaints of pain to bleeding. Monmouth police Officer Dana Wessling said five people were taken to the hospital with injuries of varying degree, but none appeared to be life-threatening. None of the children riding the bus were injured.

Monmouth police Chief Kevin Mulherin said the series of crashes caused significant damage to seven vehicles, all of which had to be towed away, as well as damage to the Regional School Unit 2 bus and a tractor-trailer.

Nobody was charged in any of the crashes, Mulherin said. Traffic was diverted around the section of road as emergency workers tended to the injured and removed the smashed cars.

The first crash occurred a little after 3 p.m. when the school bus, carrying 14 Monmouth students ages 6 to 17, was heading east on U.S. 202. The driver, Karl MacCabe of Monmouth, stopped the bus in traffic to make a left turn onto Back Street. A 2006 Toyota car, driven east by 26-year-old Jesika Ann Ellingwood, of Waterville, failed to notice the stopped bus and hit it from behind, Mulherin said.

“She just looked down at her phone,” he said. “That’s all it took.”

Wessling said Ellingwood never slowed before hitting the bus. The speed limit on the section of road is 55 mph.

“If the bus had not started its turn on Back Street, she would have hit it square at 55,” Wessling said. “He could have been dropping off kids.”

William Zima, superintendent of RSU 2, which also includes Dresden, Farmingdale, Hallowell and Richmond, said rescue workers checked the students to confirm they were not injured. School officials sent a bus to retrieve the students and return them Henry L. Cottrell Elementary School, where their parents picked them up.

“It was handled very well,” Zima said. “I was happy with the way it worked.”

Emergency crews were just wrapping up that crash when a series of crashes began to unfold as traffic backed up in the westbound lane. Wessling said the first occurred when a 2002 Dodge Stratus four-door being driven by Sierra Sirois, of Leeds, was stopped in traffic as a wrecker loaded Ellingwood’s car. An 2008 Hyundai Accent being driven west by Paulette Warren, of Greene, failed to notice the stopped Stratus and hit it from behind.

“The woman rear-ended her at probably 50 or 55 miles per hour,” Wessling said. “She got hit hard.”

Sirois and Warren were both taken to the hospital.

A few minutes later, the driver of a westbound Chevrolet Malibu, whom Wessling could not identify immediately, failed to noticed the stopped traffic. Wessling said one driver waiting in line tried to get out of the Malibu’s way but was hit from behind. The Malibu ricocheted off the first vehicle and slammed into the back of a Hannaford supermarkets tractor-trailer.

“The Malibu was destroyed,” Wessling said. That driver, too, was taken to the hospital.

The last crash occurred a few minutes later when a vehicle rear-ended a pickup towing an enclosed trailer as it was stopped in traffic. Wesslng said three people were injured, but only two were taken to the hospital from that crash.

“The driver said he wasn’t paying attention,” Wessling said.

Mulherin said the crashes were caused by driver inattention and the setting sun, which blinded the drivers as they approached the crash scene.

“When I came back through, the sun was a killer,” he said. “You could see the firetrucks with lights, but everything else was hard to see.”

Ambulances from Winthrop and Augusta were called to help assess the crash victims and take the five most seriously hurt to the hospital.

The bus sustained an estimated $8,000 worth of damage but was driven away, Mulherin said. The tractor-trailer, which had minor trailer damage, also was driven away. The other vehicles, seven in all, had to be towed.

The commute also was disrupted later in the evening by two crashes several miles to the east. The first occurred around 5:15 at the intersection of U.S. Route 202 and Puddledock Road in Manchester. A little while later, shortly before 6 p.m., there was another crash near the intersection of Pine Knoll Road in Winthrop.

Winthrop Ambulance Service was sent in response to both crashes, but nobody was hurt in either one.

Craig Crosby —621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

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