State Attorney's Office begins St. Lucie County school bus crash investigation

FORT PIERCE — The Florida Highway Patrol has handed over its findings about a March fatal St. Lucie County public school bus crash to the State Attorney's Office , which will begin its investigation this week.

The outcome will decide if former school district bus driver Albert Hazen, 56, is cited for a traffic offense or is charged criminally.

In April, the FHP released a preliminary seven-page crash report that said Hazen was inattentive as he improperly turned left into the path of a semitrailer — causing the death of Aaron Beauchamp , 8, and injuring 16 other students of Frances K. Sweet Elementary School , Fort Pierce. They were among 30 students on the bus at the time of the accident at 3:45 p.m. on March 26 at the intersection of Okeechobee and Midway roads.

Hazen was driving west on Okeechobee Road and attempted to turn left onto Midway Road when the bus went in front of an oncoming semitrailer carrying sod, the report said. The bus spun 180 degrees clockwise and the truck overturned, ending upside down. Injured students were taken to hospital emergency rooms including St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach.

One student was in a medically induced coma for three weeks because of critical head injuries. During May fifth grade student Joey Yannucci, 11, returned to school.

Details of the FHP's final report won't be released until the review is completed, Assistant State Attorney Bernard Romero said Tuesday.

He said he'll start looking at the report on Wednesday and expects to be finished in about a week.

The FHP declined to comment on its report, said spokesman Tim Frith. It is standard procedure for the FHP to ask for a review in traffic homicide cases.

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The FHP report indicated that Hazen was not suspected of being impaired on alcohol or drugs. And weather and road conditions didn't play a role in the incident, the report said.

Hazen is no longer employed by the St. Lucie County School District, according to spokeswoman Janice Karst.

The semitrailer driver was not cited in the accident.

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