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Ex-bus driver charged in injury to Penn-Trafford Middle School student

Paul Peirce
| Monday, April 25, 2016, 11:00 p.m.

A former bus driver is accused of causing a Penn-Trafford Middle School student to suffer a burned hand by having him try to remove a live power line that fell onto her vehicle earlier this month.

Penn Township police charged Patricia J. Ryan, 60, of Jeannette with endangering the welfare of a child and reckless endangerment after the April 15 incident on Route 130 near Walnut Street and Harrison City-Export Road in Harrison City.

The power line had fallen when it was hit by a goose, causing a power outage in the area.

Ryan asked the five students on the bus if one of them would get out to remove the power line, Officer James Kowalczuk said in the criminal complaint.

“The victim stated that he volunteered to go remove the wire and he got burned on his right hand. The victim stated that after he was burned, he got back on the bus and the bus driver kept asking if he was OK,” Kowalczuk said in the complaint.

The 11-year-old student was not identified in court documents.

Police said when emergency crews, police and school officials arrived, Ryan didn't disclose the incident. West Penn Power Co. crews removed the power line from atop the bus and it continued to school that day, Kowalczuk said.

Ryan was removed later that day as a bus driver with First Student Bus Co., the district's transportation provider, according to a company representative.

“I never intended to hurt anyone,” Ryan said when contacted Monday. She declined further comment.

Kowalczuk said investigators viewed security video taken aboard the bus before filing charges.

“The driver can be heard speaking on the bus radio, advising that power transformers had blown and wires were down on the roadway,” Kowalczuk said in the complaint. “Patricia Ryan can be heard stating, ‘You know what ... can one of you get out and move that wire off of the (bus)?' ”

Kowalczuk said the video shows the student getting off the bus, then getting back on holding his right hand.

Superintendent Matthew Harris sent a letter to parents the afternoon of the incident saying the district had demanded that First Student remove Ryan as a bus driver.

“The wires were quickly removed and the school van proceeded to transport all of the children to school. From the time of the incident and leading up to the arrival of these students at school, there was nothing that had been observed by those of us who had responded to cause a reason for concern,” Harris said in the letter.

“However, it was subsequently learned from the students who were on that van that while the van was situated under the fallen wires, and prior to the time any of the responders were on site, the driver asked if any of the students would be willing to exit the van to check the wires. One student elected to do what was being requested,” Harris said.

Ryan's preliminary hearing is scheduled May 31 before Harrison City District Judge Helen Kistler.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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