05/14/2016: Eleven people were hurt Saturday afternoon in a wrong-way, head-on collision near Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
Troopers say the driver of the SUV, identified as 36-year-old Megan Hester-Villalobos, of Groveland, was headed south in the northbound lanes of Sherbeth Road and hit the bus. A fire erupted, destroying both vehicles.
Video from an onlooker shows flames and thick smoke billowing from the crash site and the ensuing clamor as first responders raced toward the scene.
The driver, an adult male passenger and a child were inside the SUV and were all taken to a hospital.
Eight of 16 people from the bus were also taken to a hospital. All were Disney cast members on their way to work.
It’s not clear why the driver of the SUV was driving in the wrong direction, according to the FHP, but charges are pending. [Reportedly, the family had been at the park all day and the driver fell asleep.]
Statement from Disney Cast Member Maggie Wallace:
“Okay, to clear any misunderstandings or confusion about the J bus accident, I have the story. It wasn’t the bus driver’s fault at all. I was in the accident and it was the scariest moment of my life (and I’m sure others). A woman came straight at us in our lane (I’m assuming she was texting and driving, but not sure) and I saw the head-on collision… That car was smashed like an accordion in the front and the windshield was smashed in as well – airbags out. Talk about “life flashing before your eyes” moment right there. Flames started in the engine of that car which caused the J bus to go up in flames as well. There were 15 of us on the CP bus and 8 were sent to the hospital. Majority of us were all thrown from our seats onto the floor and received either emotional scarring and/or physical injuries. The bus driver was amazing. Absolutely great, positive, calm, encouraging. He was then sent to the hospital after an hour or two once he could feel his injuries after the adrenaline stopped (along with others). Our bus went completely in flames and some of us lost everything we had with us on the bus – money, IDs, personal items, etc. The family that hit us were also sent to the hospital and they’re in more serious condition then us. Please keep everyone in your prayers, tonight.
Update 05/17/2016: Driver To Be Charged in Crash
A woman who allegedly fell asleep at the wheel of a SUV could be facing charges after she crashed into a Disney shuttle bus on Sherberth Road, near Animal Kingdom, on Saturday.
Authorities believe Megan Hester-Villalobos, of Groveland, fell asleep at the wheel after spending the day at a Disney park.
The trooper who interviewed the boy was impressed with the child’s recollection of the crash, stating that he has a good memory, was articulate and very specific.
“As they got in the car, (the boy) stated that the father in the passenger seat fell asleep quite quickly and that he was sitting in back center position,” said Sgt. Kim Montes with the Florida Highway Patrol. “It appears that his mother fell asleep … (and) they drifted into the path of the bus (and) they collided.”
The collision resulted in both the SUV and the bus bursting into flames.
Troopers said eight passengers on the Disney shuttle bus suffered relatively minor injuries.
Hester-Villalobos and her husband suffered serious injuries. The 7-year-old boy was also injured but has been released from the hospital.
“It was a very severe crash. We are very lucky that bystanders helped the mother and father out of the car, because both vehicles caught on fire,” Montes said.
Troopers do not feel Hester-Villalobos was impaired, but said she is facing the charge of traveling on the wrong side of the road.
The FHP said nine crashes have happened in the past 1½ years in the area near where Saturday’s incident happened.
“The road is a very curvy road, and if you are not paying attention, it could (be) easy to get on the wrong side of the road or to get out of your lane,” Montes said.
Troopers plan to interview the boy’s mother to get her side of the story, but are giving her some time to recover from her injuries.
Hester-Villalobos has been ticketed at least five times in Lake County since 2009, court records show.
She was arrested in August on retail theft charges and was sentenced to 90 days in jail. A judge also ordered her drivers license be suspended six months and she pay more than $150 in restitution as punishment for the theft charge.
She’s also the daughter of Groveland’s former City Manager Ralph Hester. In 2009, she called her father complaining she’d been pulled over and ticketed after running a red light and driving 23 miles over the posted speed limit.
She and her father then accused the officer of targeting them because he’d tightened budgets in the aftermath of the economic downturn. Hester-Villalobos told her father the officer was rude and intimidating.
She fought the ticket and a judge dismissed it, court records show. Ralph Hester died later that year.
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