RACINE — As police continue to investigate Thursday’s SUV versus bus crash that killed 79-year-old Craig Griffith of Mount Pleasant, it’s unclear whether Griffith or the bus driver was responsible.
The bus driver, who has been with the Belle Urban System for 22 years, “is on administrative leave until further notice,” said Willie McDonald, the general manager of the city’s Belle Urban System. He would not name the driver involved in the crash.
When police responded at about 2:30 p.m. to the accident scene at DeKoven Avenue and South Memorial Drive, they found Griffith unresponsive inside of a 2013 Kia Soul SUV, according to a news release from the Racine Police Department.
There were two people aboard the bus, but neither was injured in the crash, according to Racine police, and Griffith was the lone occupant in the SUV.
Officers determined that Griffith’s SUV was northbound on South Memorial Drive at the time of the crash, while the bus was eastbound on DeKoven Avenue.
Lt. Al Days of the Racine Police Department said Friday that Racine police were continuing to investigate the cause of the crash along with the Wisconsin State Patrol’s Technical Reconstruction Unit.
While police are still investigating, 35-year-old David Middleton of Racine, who saw the crash, said right before the crash he remembers seeing other cars heading north and south on South Memorial Drive. Then he heard a big “boom,” Middleton said, and he saw the SUV go in the air and do a 360-degree turn.
At the moment of the crash, he believes the stoplight may have just turned green for the bus, but the bus was “flying down DeKoven eastbound” and it appeared the bus never made an attempt to slow down approaching the intersection even when it was red, he said.
After the crash, Middleton said, “I ran up to that guy that got hit. I said, ‘Help is on the way.’”
But Middleton saw Griffith had an oxygen tank in the car and he wasn’t breathing.
From there Griffith was initially transported to Wheaton Franciscan All-Saints hospital, 3801 Spring St., then transported by Flight For Life to Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa, Days said. There Griffith was pronounced dead at approximately 5 p.m., Racine County Medical Examiner Tom Terry said.
Griffith, a Racine native who attended Park High School, was married to his now deceased wife Mary for over 50 years, said Griffith’s older sister, Doris Mae Zimmerman of Racine. They had three sons and eight grandchildren.
Griffith worked for many years at the former George Gorton Machine Company and then worked as a machinist at JI Case after Gorton moved out of town. He was a golfer in his earlier days, Zimmerman said, and he loved Wisconsin sports — the Badgers, Packers and Brewers.
Preliminary autopsy results showed Griffith’s death was caused by blunt force injuries caused by the accident, according to the medical examiner’s office. He had fractures to the spine, ribs, pelvis and a lacerated aorta.
Since the crash is still under investigation, anyone with additional information is urged to call Racine police at (262) 635-7771 or Crimestoppers at (262) 636-9330.