Why did the bus cross the road? A malfunctioning shifter is the chief suspect.

New Wilmington police said a 1997, 13-passenger Ford bus traveled nearly 300 feet through New Wilmington Friday afternoon — with no one at the wheel.

The bus is owned and operated by Shenango Presbyterian Senior Care of 238 S. Market St., New Wilmington. It had been parked at the entrance of the facility, in an elevated area on the west side of South Market Street. The vehicle was in park, the ignition was off and the key had been removed from the vehicle, police were told.

About 2 p.m., the vehicle drifted forward across the driveway and traveled 78 feet down an embankment, picking up speed as it went.

Police said the bus continued another 88 feet, crossing Waugh Avenue and a lawn before drifting onto South Market Street where it struck the back of a vehicle operated by Kyle Ann Skarada, 56, of Clarion.

Following the collision, police said, the bus continued to travel in a southeasterly direction, jumped the curb, crossed two sidewalks and continued for 123 feet across a Westminster College campus lawn before drifting to a stop about five feet from the McGill Memorial Library.

Police marveled that no one had been hurt in the collision, no walkers had been struck by the runaway bus, even though college pedestrian traffic was heavy in the area, and none of the large trees in the path of the bus had been hit.

Officers said damage to both vehicles was relatively light and they were driven from the scene. Neither Skarada nor her passenger, Linda L. Whiting, 50, of Shippenville, reported injury.

Police said they found the shifter mechanism on the bus to be malfunctioning. Officers said the vehicle could be placed in the park position and the key removed, yet it was not locked in park.

Police also determined the emergency brake had not been engaged at the time of the accident.

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