Van driver died of natural causes, not from crash

PHILIPSBURG — A school van crash Wednesday morning left the 75-year-old driver dead, but an autopsy showed he died as a result of a cardiac event, not the crash.

County Coroner Scott A. Sayers conducted an autopsy Wednesday afternoon and concluded that Thomas A. Rhoades, of Bellefonte, died of natural causes.

State police at Philipsburg, who investigated the crash, had left open the possibility, saying earlier in the day that it was possible that Rhoades experienced a medical problem that might have caused the crash.

Passengers in the van, Lois E. Rhodes, 75, also of Bellefonte, and Timothy Campbell, 14, of State College, suffered minor injuries and were taken to Clearfield Hospital for treatment, according to state police at Philipsburg.

Rhoades was driving a Confer Transportation minivan west on U.S. Route 322 and was at the intersection with Fairway Drive about 8:35 a.m. when he began to cross the center line into the opposing lane, police said.

The van returned to the westbound lane and went onto the shoulder where it sideswiped a mailbox, police said.

It then went over an embankment, ran over a small tree and traveled another 30 feet or so before hitting a larger tree, police said.

The van bounced off that tree and came to rest about 10 feet away, police said.

Everyone in the van was wearing a safety belt.

Pete Bosak can be reached at 235-3928.