Albert Hazen, a St. Lucie, Florida school bus driver, allegedly killed Aaron Beauchamp, 9, when he turned into the path of a tractor-trailer on Monday, March 26. The accident allegedly injured 13 other students as well as Hazen himself. Two investigations into the accident are currently under way: one by the Florida Highway Patrol’s Homicide Investigation department and another internal investigation by St. Lucie school district. Investigators say that Hazen will likely face charges regarding the incident. It is not clear whether he has retained a private criminal defense attorney.
The accident occurred at approximately 3:40 pm. at the intersection of Okeechobee Road and Midway Road, located in western St. Lucie County. The bus, number 2414 in the St. Lucie fleet, was transporting students home from Frances K. Sweet Elementary School. 30 students were aboard at the time of the accident; it is likely that those aboard were between six and eleven years old. While the school bus was equipped with seatbelts, it is not clear whether the children were utilizing them. Video footage taken from surveillance cameras will be reviewed during the investigations into the crash.
According to the car accident report, Hazen was making a left turn onto Midway Road onto Okeechobee Road when he turned directly in front of a semi tractor-trailer that was heading in the opposite direction. The driver of the semi, 24-year-old Charles Cooper, reportedly took action to try to avoid colliding with the school bus but was unable to prevent the crash. The impact sent the semi spinning, and it ended up completely upside down. Cooper, remarkably, was uninjured and was spotted removing his personal effects from the semi cab after the crash. He declined to comment.
The truck accident the front of the bus completely and injured 13 students aboard as well as Hazen. Three of the injured students were flown to St. Mary’s Medical Center, located in West Palm Beach. Two were listed by the hospital as in stable condition, while the third was in serious condition but is expected to survive. Another 10 students, along with Hazen, were transported to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center and Heart Institute, located in Fort Pierce. One other student was taken to St. Lucie Medical Center. The conditions of those students are unknown, but Hazen is said to be in serious condition.
Rescue workers found Aaron Beauchamp, 9, unresponsive inside of the school bus. He was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency medical workers. Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.
The remaining 16 students, who were uninjured, were taken to St. Lucie Emergency Operations Center, located at 15305 West Midway Road to await pickup by their parents. Parents were informed via a phone notification system of the crash.
Officials from the St. Lucie School District say that while they will still be holding school on Tuesday, they will be providing onsite grief counseling for those who need it. It is not clear whether Hazen is still officially employed as a school bus driver by the school district.