School bus driver, students receive minor injuries in morning collision with pick-up truck near Covington

By Heather Nolan, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
on November 07, 2012 at 5:34 PM, updated November 07, 2012 at 6:47 PM Email | Print

Four children and a school bus driver received minor injuries Wednesday morning when a pick-up truck collided with the bus on Horse Branch Road near the Penn Mill Lakes subdivision north of Covington, according to St. Tammany Fire Protection District 12 spokesman James Hartman. The driver of the pickup, Jose Correa of New Orleans, was not injured and was cited for careless operation of a motor vehicle, Hartman said.

The bus driver, whose name has not been released, was taken to St. Tammany Parish Hospital where he was treated for non life-threatening injuries, Hartman said. The passengers — children between 12 and 15-years-old — received minor scrapes and bruises, he said. None required medical attention.

Hartman said just before 9 a.m., a man driving a Ford F-350 was traveling at a high rate of speed while attempting to make a 90-degree turn onto Horse Branch Road. The driver tried to brake, Hartman said, but skidded about 70 feet and struck the front left corner of the bus underneath the driver’s position.

Firefighters from Fire District 12 and St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies responded, Hartman said. Another bus arrived shortly after the collision to take the kids to school, Hartman said.

ALL ABOARD! NORTHSHORE LEADERS LINE UP FOR ‘TRAIN OF HOPE’

When Kim Bergeron and Donna O’Daniels watched the impact of Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast, they felt the need to respond. The two women are already community leaders — Bergeron as director of cultural affairs for the City of Slidell and O’Daniels as president and CEO of the St. Tammany Tourist and Convention Commission – and knew they had contacts within St. Tammany and beyond. But how could they best organize local donors to make a difference in far-away New Jersey?

At about midnight last Thursday, the two conceived “Train of Hope.” The idea was to recruit Amtrak, which has a passenger train that passes through Slidell, to help carry relief supplies to beleaguered storm survivors. A Facebook page and a few emails later, Train of Hope was off and running.

With the help of Sen. David Vitter and other influential officials, Amtrak embraced the idea. Later this week, when the train makes its routine stop in Slidell, volunteers will be waiting to load the donations that are already flowing in. An exact date isn’t set, but Amtrak has said the project will take off sometime between Wednesday and Friday.

While concerned people far from a disaster area are usually asked to make cash donations to organizations that provide immediate aid on the ground, there are some things those organizations don’t provide – or can’t provide quickly. The approach of winter weather makes some needs even more pressing for Sandy’s victims.

O’Daniels and Bergeron have been in touch with officials in Newark and Hoboken, NJ, to learn their needs, and have created a list of necessary supplies, including blankets, flashlights and D batteries (no candles, please), baby formula and food, toiletries, socks, non-perishable food, and pet needs including dog and cat food and kitty litter.

“As a suburban community that has been through disasters, St. Tammany’s citizens know firsthand that attention is always focused first on larger, urban areas,” Bergeron said. “While many areas need help right now, we thought focusing on these smaller New Jersey cities would provide short-term assistance in a place that might otherwise be overlooked.”

O’Daniels and Bergeron are hoping people in cities along the Amtrak route will follow St. Tammany’s lead, preparing shipments of supplies to be added to the collection along the way. The Amtrak train’s Crescent Route makes stops in Hattiesburg, MS; Birmingham, AL; Atlanta, GA; and Washington, DC.

“In our recent past, volunteers and donations came from every corner of our country to help us when we needed it the most,” O’Daniels said. “That spirit of giving made things a lot better for a lot of people. Many of our citizens are regular donors to national charities, and we support those efforts. But sometimes it feels like it’s not enough – and sometimes it really isn’t. Sometimes the basic needs are best provided through direct donations.”

“Train of Hope isn’t ‘paying it back,'” said Bergeron. “It’s paying it forward. While election years often lead to feelings of division between us, the bottom line is that we’re all family in this country. In times like this, there are no red states or blue states; there are only people in need, with needs we are able to meet. When we needed it, they gave us help – and hope. We need to give them both, too. That’s what Train of Hope is meant to do.”

Many businesses have offered to serve as drop-off locations throughout the parish. Right now, those include the St. Tammany Parish Tourist Commission Visitor Center, 68099 Highway 59 near Mandeville; the City of Slidell’s Department of Cultural & Public Affairs, 250 Bouscaren St., Suite 304; Coscino’s Italian Grill, 1809 N Causeway Blvd., Mandeville; Advanced Bio-Medical and kiisa, 1134 Brownswitch Road, Slidell; Serenity Home and Gifts, 1660 Highway 59, Mandeville; Family Cuts at all five St. Tammany locations: 106 Hwy 190 West by Piccadilly, 61103 Airport Rd by IHOP, 4350 Hwy 22 by Rouse’s, 3078 Gause E. by Mizers, 69284 Hwy 21 close to Target; Homewood Suites, 175 Holiday Blvd (next to Sam’s), Slidell; and Lowry, Dunham, Case and Vivien Insurance, 2001 1st Street, Slidell.

Donors are asked to box their donations for easier loading and transport, but all donations will be accepted.

For more information about the loading and departure of the Train of Hope, contact O’Daniels at 985-966-2823 or Bergeron at 985 646 4375. More information can also be found at http://www.facebook.com/TrainofHopeSandyRelief, which is updated frequently.

Media Contact:
James Hartman
(504) 458-4600
james@jameshartman.net

Northshore offers helping hand during Hurricane Sandy

Ashley Rodrigue / Eyewitness News
Email: arodrigue@wwltv.com | Twitter: @ashleyrwwl

ABITA SPRINGS, La. — Some people on the Northshore with plenty of experience with big storms are offering a helping hand to the Northeast.

As more than 100 shelters across New England filled up Monday with families fleeing Hurricane Sandy, Abita Springs resident Tanya Gulliver welcomed some of them at one haven in New Jersey. “We have 310 people staying in our shelter, and it’s in a gym at the university so it’s not that big and we’re just trying to keep people calm and safe as they wait out the storm,” Gulliver said. Gulliver is helping out at the Red Cross shelter based on Rutgers’ campus, where there’s a lot of waiting, a lot of worrying and a lot of warnings from people like her with hurricane experience. “A lot of the flooding might not happen on the same day as the storm comes through. The concern about the systems meeting here means that coastal flooding might occur after,” she said.

There’s a lot of waiting happening back home on the Northshore too, where some emergency responders are watching weather reports closely. “Until the event makes landfall, until the event is in progress or over with, it’s hard to assess what their needs might be,” said St. Tammany Fire District #12 spokesman James Hartman.

For other organizations, like first responders, that want to help, but are waiting to see if help is needed, equipment is already on standby, including generators for power outages, chainsaws for downed trees and advice for anyone. “The folks being impacted by Hurricane Sandy are not as accustomed to these events as we are and so there’s a great deal of compassion from anyone here, not just from first responders but from citizens in South Louisiana,” Hartman said. The Red Cross says depending on the outcome of the storm, more volunteers may be sent this week.