Yesterday afternoon, a burglar's ransacking of a police officer's Bayside apartment led to a police chase that culminated with the SUV crashing into a mini-school bus. The SUV and bus collided on the Douglaston Parkway near Van Zandt Avenue, and 12 people, including eight children, the bus escort and the bus driver, were taken to hospitals for injuries. The driver of the stolen SUV tried to escape on foot but was chased down by police.
A number of police cars chased the stolen Nissan Murano SUV after a police officer's wife reported that their apartment was burglarized and that their SUV was stolen. A number of police cars spotted the car, driven by Thomas Hernandez, and followed it for a while. Although the NYPD did not say how many police cars were involved in the chase or how fast the cars were going (the speed limit on that stretch is 20 MPH), one witness told the CW 11 News at Ten that there were "whole lot of police cars involved...it was just a ridiculous amount of manpower." (The CW 11 News at Ten also called it a "Ride From Hell".)
The SUV tried to overtake the bus of learning-disabled children but slammed into it so hard that the bus hit a tree and overturned. Other drivers and witnesses in the area ran to the bus to help the EMT and police with the children. A UPS worker, Peter Aruta, helped extract a girl from the bus and said, "Between everyone screaming for help and being upset, it was pretty crazy." None of the children's injuries seemed life-threatening, and apparently all the children were wearing their seat belts. An 11-year-old told WABC 7, "We went down, down and around ... I think we were going to die. Everybody was screaming ... I was brave."
Hernandez is still in police custody and Newsday reports that some of the charges against him include "attempted burglary, vehicular assault, reckless endangerment, unauthorized use of a vehicle, assault against a police officer and grand larceny." And in other crash news, a Queens family wonders if their house is cursed because yesterday was the second time a car has crashed into it and the driver of a tractor trailer tried to get away from the police by getting out of the vehicle and jumping off the Tappan Zee Bridge into the Hudson (he survived).