Bus Crashes Into Niles Animal Shelter, Roof Collapses

The two women on the bus were not hurt, but the animal shelter's building is a wreck, leaving it no place to accept 75 rescue animals due to arrive soon. There were 25 animals in the building today.

By Pam DeFiglio, Patch.com

Update 9 p.m. Wednesday:

The missing cat has been found, and Touhy Avenue has been reopened to traffic.

Wright-Way has found foster homes for all animals for the night, it reported on its Facebook page, and its board of directors is meeting tonight (Wednesday) to decide how to proceed in the immediate aftermath. Wright-Way primarily finds homes for southern Illinois animals which would likely otherwise be euthanized; it had 75 animals due to arrive this weekend, but says it now cannot accept them because it has no place to put them. 

It also said the bus was pulled out of the building, the antenna tower above the building had to be brought down, and the roof collapsed.

Wright-Way Animal Rescue is asking for donations to help it rebuild on its Facebook page.  It said it does not own the building, but has poured thousands of dollars of work into it over the years to accommodate it to the pets' needs.

Original story:

A driver lost control of her school bus Wednesday afternoon at Touhy and Harlem Avenues in Niles and crashed into Wright-Way Animal Shelter.

Both the driver, a 62-year-old woman, and a 22-year-old woman who was likely a driver-in-training were treated and released at a hospital, said Niles Police Department Sergeant Robert Tornabene. No one else was on the bus. 

All the animals have been accounted for, with the possible exception of one cat, which may have escaped, he said. 

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Christy Anderson, one of the owners of Wright-Way, said there were 25 animals in the shelter today, mostly dogs. They were in cages, and Niles Fire Department personnel brought them outside the building, which may have structural damage.

Wright-way volunteers and supporters from the neighborhood, such as Lori Bielawski and her daughter Katie, came over to the shelter when they heard the crash. They were holding dogs on leashes on the lawn of a neighboring business, and one volunteer used a garden hose to fill bowls with water for the animals in the hot sun.

"They're scared, but there are people out here to comfort them," said Liz Guerrero, a Wright-Way employee.

Touhy Avenue is blocked off between Harlem Avenue on the west and Milwaukee Avenue on the east and will likely remain so through rush hour.

The front of the bus is wedged into the front of the building, and Tornabene said removing the bus could cause destabilize it or cause structural integrity problems. 

There is also an antenna mounted on the roof with cables, and if it falls, it could fall on power lines in back of the building, away from Touhy Avenue. That could impact Niles Public Works operations and the Niles pumping station, he said. If that should occur, they may have to work off a generator.

The crash occurred as the driver was heading southbound on Harlem Avenue trying to take a left turn onto eastbound Touhy Avenue. Tornabene said police are investigating whether there was a mechanical failure or if driver error occurred.

Fortunately, no one was in front of the building or in the front part of the building when the crash occurred. The animal cages are toward the back of the building.

Christy Anderson said she was thankful that the owner of Georgia Nut Company in Skokie had sent a semi-trailer to transport the animals and their cages. 

"Tonight the animals will go to a building owned by Georgia Nut. Tomorrow--I don't know," she said. 

Julie J October 03, 2013 at 08:27 AM
I think the owners of the bus company and/or driver should have to pay for the restoration of the building. Their bus/driver caused the damages, they should have to pay for the immediate restoration of the damages to the building. Wright-Way is a great organization, but they should not have to pay for the costs on their own. I will make a donation, but hope that they have lawyers that can file the right paperwork to expedite the recovery of the funds from the bus company and/or driver's insurance depending on the cause of the crash.
Joseph M. Koziol October 03, 2013 at 11:54 AM
I agree with Julie...the bus company should be held accountable for the drivers actions. If driver negligence is proven, the driver should also be dismissed. Thankfully the bus did not have children in it. I was not at the scene, but I am familiar with the area and building along with its proximity to the street and I suspect speed might be an issue here but that is for the authorities to determine.
what_eva October 03, 2013 at 10:33 PM
Does nobody have insurance?
Jerry@MG October 05, 2013 at 11:56 AM
Surely, Wright Way's insurance will pay for anything not paid by the bus company and building owner's insurance company. If not, they must have thousands of happy clients who will be more than happy to donate to rebuild. Kudos to Georgia Nut for helping.


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