9 students injured in school van crash in Kissimmee

1 child airlifted to hospital, 4 adults hurt, authorities say

KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Nine students were injured Friday when a school van was involved in a crash in Kissimmee, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The crash occurred around 3 p.m. on Reaves Road near Pleasant Hill Road. According to witnesses, as the light turned yellow, the van turned left on to Reaves Road, into the path of the oncoming pickup truck. Under Florida law, the truck would still have the right-of-way, FHP said.

The private school van from Bell Lago Charter School was on its way to the Academy of Martial Arts.

Parents with children at the Academy said they trust the drivers, despite this incident.

"I feel confident in the drivers," said Nicole Jefferys. "The instructors drive the bus as well and I trust them with my kids."

Local 6 saw at a similar van that sat outside the martial arts academy Friday evening. That similar van does have seat belts, and the academy's owner, Sheryl Johnson, said there are shoulder straps in the window seats and lap belts on the aisles.

"A seat belt is meant for adult males, it's not meant for children," said Trooper Kim Montes. "So even if you're wearing a seat belt, often times it doesn't fit a child properly. We don't know if those children were unrestrained or maybe they weren't wearing a seatbelt properly. That's what we will be looking at in the investigation."

Nine children were aboard the van, and one of them was airlifted to Arnold Palmer Hospital, the FHP said. Four adults were also injured, Osceola County Fire officials say.

The owner of the Academy of Martial Arts said one child was thrown from the van. FHP said the 5-year-old child was in stable condition and does not have any life-threatening injuries.

Two children were taken by ground to Osceola Regional Hospital and two children were taken to Florida Hospital. It's not clear what the conditions of the children or adults are.

The Academy of Martial Arts is working to contact parents.

Charges are pending against the van driver, 73-year-old Renaldo Picccinelli.

Johnson said Piccinelli has been driving for the academy for the past three years and that he used to drive buses for LYNX. Troopers said he's only had on other minor citation back in 1990.

Fifteen-passenger vans are considered buses, so seat belts are not required. It's unknown if anyone was wearing seat belts, but FHP recommends using them.

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