The bus apparently stalled on the tracks and the driver had to abandon the vehicle before the collision. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

With the school bus “in a million pieces,” it will take a while for Maricopa Police Department to sort out the cause of a train/bus collision Thursday night.

The Maricopa Unified School District bus was empty at the time of impact, the driver having fled the site. MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said the condition of the small bus, with pieces scattered along the tracks, will make the investigation more difficult than usual.

MPD will go through maintenance records on the vehicle in the effort to determine why it reportedly stopped functioning after the driver stopped at the tracks, which is the practice of all bus drivers.

The distressed driver was evaluated at the scene by Maricopa Fire Department and will have to undergo other tests. MUSD Human Resources Director Tom Beckett said it is policy that any driver involved in an accident is required to submit to drug and alcohol testing.

“The driver is unable to drive until the outcome of the screening is sent to the District,” Beckett said. “The District is currently following those protocols with the driver from last evening’s accident.”

Besides MPD and MFD, Union Pacific Railroad had its police on scene, and the Ak-Chin Police Department also helped, Alvarado said.

Meanwhile, MUSD has a school bus to replace.

“We estimate that the cost for a new bus to around $120,000,” Beckett said. “There will be settlement through the insurance company based on the depreciated value of the bus, but we still anticipate paying around $100,000-$110,000 for a new bus.”