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Durham School Bus Hits Utility Pole; 21 Students Taken To Hospital

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DURHAM — Twenty-one students suffered minor injuries after a school bus crashed into a utility pole in downtown Durham Wednesday morning.

School officials say the bus was heading to George Watts Elementary School when it lost control as it rounded the corner on North Duke Street, causing it to hit a utility pole.

The bus driver, Diann C. McCoy, 53, of Roxboro, was driving north on North Duke Street when the bus' back tires struck the curb on the right side of the road. The bus went forward approximately 87 yards in the right lane before striking a utility pole on the right side of the road and shearing it in half.

Students at the Durham School of the Arts were heading to class when the accident happened.

"I was in my class when I heard the commotion outside. It was as if metal was rubbing up against another type of metal," says principal Ed Forsythe.

"Everybody was really excited, and all of the administrators were running around with their walkie-talkies pretty terrified," says student Natalie Keyssar. "I saw a teacher, and she said no one was seriously hurt."

The bus later came to rest beside a building on the other side of the street. One child was taken by ambulance to Duke University Hospital for treatment of a fractured clavicle. The remaining 20 children were taken in a school bus to Duke to be checked for minor injuries.

McCoy was treated at Durham Regional Hospital for a knee injury suffered as she used the emergency exit to get out of the wrecked bus.

The bus was a total loss. Damage to the utility pole was estimated at $5,000. Debris also damaged the windshield of a van in the lane next to the bus. No charges have been filed, but the accident is still under investigation.

Forsythe says he was very impressed and proud of the way that everyone handled the accident. More than 1,500 people in central Durham did not have power for several hours. The outage stretched from downtown to Northgate Mall.