October 28, 2010
Marathon bus driver, coach honored after crash
Junior varsity field hockey team struck by alleged drunk driver on way to game in Greene
MARATHON — Laughter and cheers filled the air on the school bus as the Marathon girls junior varsity field hockey team headed to its game in Greene on Oct. 16. Everything was normal.
What occurred next is hard for the girls and the adults on the bus to remember.
“It happens so fast and so slow at the same time,” reflected Kathleen Hoyt, the assistant coach, who was on the bus at the time.
That afternoon, the team was involved in an accident that police say was caused by a man later charged with drunken driving.
State police said Patrick Silvanic, 30, was traveling on Route 11 in a pickup truck and crossed the yellow double solid lines, sideswiping the school bus. The team was on its way to Greene to play Whitney Point in a tournament. Twelve of the team’s 14 players were aboard and the bus was on its way to pick up another player.
To celebrate the efforts of those who aided the players that day, parents of the players presented gifts and testimonies during Wednesday’s meeting of the Marathon Board of Education. Gifts were given to the players, driver and Hoyt.
One mother, Michelle Mullen, broke down crying as she read from a letter she had prepared. The girls were flung around the bus like rag dolls, she said.
Larry Cave, the bus driver who swerved to avoid a head-on collision, said he’s just glad everyone is alive.
Cave had been driving for the district for four years, without a crash, when the accident occurred, he said. The day of the accident was the first time he had driven for the junior varsity team.
The truck driven by Silvanic swerved into oncoming traffic, speeding toward the bus. Cave moved the bus to the side of the road. If Cave had done things differently, the bus could have easily gone over an embankment, a parent said.
“You react, you don’t do a lot of thinking,” Cave said.
To the girls, Cave was a hero — literally a lifesaver — they said as they handed him a cup with the team’s picture emblazoned on it, and cards.
“You guys are going to go on and do amazing things, there’s no doubt,” Cave said in return, hugging the girls and parents, who were all at the meeting.
Hoyt received a figurine with a star for her recognition for keeping the team calm after the crash.
The field hockey players received bracelets with inspirational words, such as “courage.”
Eryn Griep, 14, went to the United Health Wilson Memorial Hospital in Johnson City following the accident. She recalls talking to teammate Cienna Morrison, seconds before the crash, but that is all she remembers.
In the aftermath of the crash, Griep remembered looking at Morrison and seeing the window next to her, which was shattered because Morrison had smashed her head on it. Morrison, 14, suffered from whiplash.
“I didn’t know until I got to the hospital and someone told me,” Morrison said.
Morrison and Shalind Hall are the only players still recovering from injuries and had to sit out the remainder of the season. One parent said nine girls received concussions.
On Monday, the team played its last game, defeating Moravia, 4-0, as Griep scored three goals. The Olympians ended the season with a 6-5 record.
District officials say they have had no contact with Silvanic since the accident.
Griep, Morrison and Hall have since joined Students Against Destructive Decisions.
“We can influence other people not to do it (drive drunk),” answered Morrison when asked what she and her teammates can do to turn this into a positive story.
Silvanic, of 1912 McGraw Marathon Road, was charged at the hospital with a felony count of driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor; and failure to keep right and no front license plate, both traffic infractions.
He was issued tickets to appear Nov. 3 in Marathon Town Court to answer the charges.
Silvanic said he was told by his lawyer not to discuss details of the investigation, but he is relieved no one was seriously injured.
“I’m glad no one was hurt and I didn’t mean to do it,” Silvanic said on the phone this morning.
“There was definitely an angel with them that day,” said Sandy Griep, Eryn’s mother.
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