A 9-year-old girl was critically injured when the driver of a pickup truck struck her and two other students getting onto a Hardee County school bus Thursday morning, troopers said.
The girl, who is from Bowling Green, was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital.
A 6-year-old and 8-year-old boy, also from Bowling Green, were taken to Florida Hospital in Wauchula with minor injuries, troopers said.
Louis Edward Stephen, 69, of Bowling Green, was driving the Ford F-250 pickup east on State Road 62, about a half-mile west of U.S. 17, in Bowling Green at 7:23 p.m., troopers said. The bus, facing east, was stopped ahead of the Stephen with its red lights flashing and stop signs extended as students boarded, troopers said.
Stephen told investigators he thought the red lights were traffic signals at the U.S. 17 intersection. Once he realized the lights were from a school bus, he was unable to stop and swerved toward the right to avoid a rear-end collision, troopers said.
The pickup went to the south shoulder of State Road 62, striking the three children, a Florida Highway Patrol report said.
Stephen faces a charge of failure to stop for school bus.
He was not injured, the report said.