Bus hits, kills Belleville man crossing street, crashes into County Education Office

A bus struck and killed a pedestrian at the intersection of South Belt West and Illinois 159 in Belleville before crashing into a building in St. Clair County late Saturday afternoon.

County Coroner Calvin Dye Sr. reported Monday that Thomas Cobillas, 48, of the 700 block of High Street, was pronounced dead at 6:50 p.m. Saturday. He had been transported by ambulance to Memorial Hospital Belleville.

The bus was part of the Alternative Transportation System program, according to Belleville Police Department Deputy Chief Mark Heffernan. It is operated by Southwestern Illinois College in partnership with the St. Clair County Transit District.

The bus driver, who survived the crash, was taken to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in O’Fallon. His condition is unknown.

“He has not been charged at this point,” Heffernan said Monday. “The Belleville Police Department Traffic Unit responded to the scene, along with the Belleville Police Crime Scene Unit. They are currently investigating the accident.

Police are withholding the identity of the bus driver until more information is obtained through investigation.

This photo shows one of the Alternative Transportation System program buses operated by Southwestern Illinois College in partnership with the St. Clair County Transit District.

The 2021 Ford Cutaway bus was traveling east on South Belt West just before 5 p.m. when it hit Cobillas, who was crossing the street, then veered left as if heading north on South Illinois Street, which is Illinois 159.

The bus left the street near the BP gas station, flattened a payphone kiosk, then hit the side of the St. Clair County Regional Education Office building, which was vacant on a Saturday.

“There was no one else on the bus that was taken to the hospital,” Heffernan said.

The alternative transportation system offers rides for people with disabilities and people aged 60 and over, according to its website. SWIC Transportation Director Robert Wilson could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

The St. Clair County brick building’s address is 1000 S. Illinois St., though the main entrance and parking lot are on the opposite side, along South High Street. It housed a grocery store before the county purchased it.

Officials put plywood over the section where the bus hit. They were still assessing the damage on Tuesday.

“There were two offices that were damaged, and we were able to isolate them, and we’re doing a structural analysis,” said Jim Brede, director of the St. Clair County Public Building Commission, which manages buildings in the county.

“(The bus) hit a window, but it was between the two offices. Our main concern is the structure outside the wall. We just don’t know how far the damage went. Today , they will start to clean and climb on the roof.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated Tuesday morning to include information from a St. Clair County official.

Plywood covers the section of the St. Clair County Regional Office of Education building in Belleville that was hit by an Alternative Transportation System bus late Saturday afternoon.

Plywood covers the section of the St. Clair County Regional Office of Education building in Belleville that was hit by an Alternative Transportation System bus late Saturday afternoon.