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Area emergency medical technicians prepare a stretcher for one of the occupants of a school bus that slid into a ditch east of Henry in Putnam County on Saturday. NewsTribune photo/Craig Sterrett
By Craig Sterrett and Tom Collins NewsTribune staff
Heavy snow and slick roads caused a school bus crash in Putnam County that injured at least eight, though the injuries were not life-threatening.
Old Man Winter delivered a one-two punch to the Illinois Valley this weekend, dropping up to 8 inches in a pair of snowfalls Friday into Saturday and Sunday into this morning.
The most serious event was the crash of a bus carrying a school group from south-suburban Rich Township High School District 227. The bus slid off Route 18 on the S-curve near Wolf Hollow about 3 miles east of Henry on Saturday morning. PCEMS paramedic Matt Gensini said ambulances were called from as far as Wyanet, Mendota and Oglesby to assist the 18 occupants, including eight injured.
PCEMS director Andrew Jackson said two people had visible injuries and six others complained “they were hurting” in some way. The eight were transported to St. Margaret’s Hospital, Spring Valley. The last was released from the hospital at about 4 p.m. Saturday.
Those were by no means the only snow-related accidents or injuries.
Illinois Valley Community Hospital in Peru reported two people who sustained minor injuries after slipping on ice (both were treated and released) and one person who remains a patient after sustaining a hip injury shoveling snow.
“Anytime you get a lot of snow you’re going to see accidents,” observed Gene Vogelgesang, IVCH spokesman. “What’s gratifying is there were no reported snow blower accidents — snow blowers can be dangerous — so we’re happy about that.”
State police reported 16 crashes and 19 motorist-assist requests since 6 p.m. Friday.
“It was a busy weekend for our troopers,” said trooper Craig Graham, spokesman for District 17 state police in La Salle. “Guys get called out early and they stay late. They look a little beat up this morning.”
State police and La Salle County Sheriff’s Office reported mostly low-speed accidents with no significant injuries. Towing companies, Senica’s of La Salle and Scholle’s of Peru, both said they had quite a bit of work Friday night and Saturday morning.
At about 8 a.m. Saturday, the worst stretch of interstate highway was Interstate 39 between La Salle and Mendota. Scanner traffic indicated a request for the Illinois Department of Transportation to bring more salt immediately to I-39 near La Salle, which was described as “a sheet of ice.”
The storm descended after school dismissed Friday — a disappointment for schoolchildren — but did force scattered cancellations including a Saturday basketball tournament at Parkside School in Peru. However, several winter-themed activities still were on such as sledding on hills throughout the Illinois Valley, a road race and the fifth annual Ice Odyssey at Ottawa, Wreaths Around America in La Salle and some charitable gift-giving events for families in need.
In all, the two weekend snowfalls dumped 4-8 inches throughout the area, according to the National Weather Service in Romeoville.
Meteorologist Richard Castro said a mild reprieve is coming. Two more storms are brewing, Castro noted, but both appeared headed toward the Chicago region and could only graze North Central Illinois. Additionally, mid-week temperatures will gradually rise above freezing — a nice change after this weekend’s single-digit lows — and should clear roadways if not melt away snow cover before Christmas.