FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — A Cumberland County school bus carrying 27 children never made it to school after being involved in an accident.
The crash happened around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday on Highway 53 near Bladen County. Witnesses claim two cars tried to pass the bus, but hesitated, causing the accident.
Seven students were taken by ambulance to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center. Two were taken to the medical center by their parents.
"The children all seem to be fine. We took them as a precaution. Several of them were complaining of back injuries that were in the back seat," said transportation supervisor Liz McGowan.
Six students on the bus were from Mac Williams Middle School. Three of the students were from Cape Fear High.
"We have seen worse on that road before. It could have been an 18-wheeler. We thank God that it wasn't worse than what it was," said Eric Monroe," the brother of one of the students on the bus.
"I'm just thankful that none of the kids were hurt. That was my first priority," said Sarah Johnson, one of the drivers who was involved in the accident.
Mike Clover, transportation director for Cumberland County schools, said school buses are built to withstand a great deal of force. Despite the national debate on whether they should have seat belts, students often escape from these types of accidents with bumps and bruises.
"Most often where the vehicle hits is below where the child is sitting, so the impact is to the front of the vehicle and below where the child is sitting and that minimizes injuries," he said.
Clover said the inside of buses have gotten much safer over the years too. He said in a front or rear impact, if the student is sitting forward properly, they are going to bounce into the seat which is now cushioned.
One recent study suggests seat belts on buses can reduce the risk of injury by 20 percent. Right now, about 600 school districts require new buses to be equipped with seat belts. Officials said it costs $1,100 to equip a bus with seat belts.
Most of the students have since been treated and released from the medical center. A pregnant student is being held for observation. The driver of one of the vehicles was cited for failure to reduce speed. Another driver involved in the accident was injured and taken to the medical center, where she is listed in stable condition.