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Here are the top stories for Sunday, March 12: Landslide in Ethiopia kills at least 15; Josh Earnest speaks in Dubai; Pope Francis prays for victims killed in Guatemala fire; Jewish Israelis celebrate Purim with annual parade in Holon. AP

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VINELAND - An 83-year-old city woman planning to attend the Philadelphia Flower Show died Monday when she was struck by a chartered bus, according to Vineland Police, who called the incident "an unfortunate accident."

The woman, identified by investigators as Myriam Roman of Conley Drive, was pinned under the front wheel near the entrance door to the Sheppard bus and died at the scene.

The excursion to the flower show was an annual tradition, organized by longtime event planner Linda Sikking. The group met in the parking lot of the shopping center at Lincoln and Dante avenues to catch the privately chartered bus that was scheduled to leave at 8:45 a.m.

On Monday, their familiar driver pulled into the parking lot about 8:30 a.m. and reported the bus was having some sort of mechanical issue. The driver planned to go back to the yard and pick up a different bus to take the group of 54 to the show, Sikking said.

As the driver started to pull away, it appears Roman was walking in front of the coach bus, said Police Officer Fred DeMary of the Traffic Safety Unit.

One of the women waiting to take the trip, who did not want to be identified, said she shouted to warn the driver and the pedestrian. It appeared the pedestrian fell under the bus, she said.

"I haven't had a chance to speak to the driver yet but all indications appear as though the bus driver didn't see the individual crossing in front and he started to proceed when she was struck," DeMary told The Daily Journal.

Police officers and day-trippers noted Roman was a petite woman.

The driver, who was not cited, was taken to Inspira Medical Center Vineland for blood and urine samples to rule out any drug or alcohol use, which was not suspected in the case, said Sgt. Nicholas Dounoulis of the Traffic Safety Unit.

Those who were booked on the trip consoled each other in the parking lot. A police chaplain was also on the scene to offer comfort while police waited for the medical examiner.

Sikking started booking the annual trip when she worked at Minotola National Bank in the 1990s. When she retired she continued the tradition of planning the sold-out trip.

Regular protocol calls for her to get on the bus, talk with the driver and then tell passengers when it is time to board, Sikking said.

Deborah M. Marko; (856) 563-5256; dmarko@gannettnj.com

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