Five students remain hospitalized after school bus wreck
Posted December 20, 2010 11:00 a.m. EST
Updated December 21, 2010 5:57 a.m. EST
Cary, N.C. — More than 30 students were injured Monday morning in a chain-reaction wreck in Cary involving three school-activity buses from Asheboro, police said.
The buses, which were carrying about 113 eighth-grade students from North Asheboro Middle School to the North Carolina Museums of History and Natural Sciences, wrecked on U.S. Highway 64 and Edinburgh Drive around 10:30 a.m.
Investigators said the driver of the third bus said he got distracted after hearing a buzzing sound on the bus. As he was slowing at a stop light, he looked down, and when he looked up, he had hit the second bus, which then hit the first bus.
Jeff Hammerstein with Wake EMS described how emergency crews responded to the crash and handled dozens of injuries at once. Three ambulances and two district chiefs were originally dispatched to the scene, he said.
"Once those early arriving students get there and can see first-hand what we're actually dealing with, they may up that count or may turn some of them around, depending on what's needed," Hammerstein said.
In this case, more than a dozen ambulances were sent from all over the county, including EVAC-1, a multiple patient transport unit.
"That ended up transporting 20 of our patients to one of the hospitals, which would have been anywhere between 10 and 20 additional ambulances," Hammerstein said.
One adult and 35 students reported minor injuries – neck and back pain, cuts and aches – and were taken to area hospitals, Cary police said.
One student was taken to a local trauma center as a precaution.
Five students were still being treated at Western Wake Medical Center in Cary Monday night. All other students have been released.
“It's probably the scariest thing I've ever been in,” student Tyler Nash, who was on the second bus, said.
Nash said some of his classmates were thrown in the air and over the seats during the crash. He said he was not seriously hurt.
“I was just thrown forward into the seat,” he said. “That's when my upper lip got tore up.”
Calief Rawls, also on the bus, called his mother from the bus to tell her what happened.
“No mother wants to get that phone call that her child's been in an accident,” Vera Rawls said.
She and her husband rushed from the Asheboro area to meet their son at the hospital.
“After I got here, I just thanked God that it wasn't much worse,” she said.
A fourth bus on the trip was not involved in the wreck, she said.
“You never like an injury, never like an accident, but to hear it’s only minor injuries – it’s sure a relief,” said Brad Rice, director of support services for Asheboro Schools. “We take the safety of our students seriously.”
Rice said the bus driver who caused the wreck will undergo an alcohol and drug test as part of the school system’s investigation into the crash. Authorities don't expect to file charges.
The bus will also be checked out to see if any equipment on the bus malfunctioned.
Buses, he said, have buzzer systems to alert for malfunctioning equipment.
The uninjured students were taken to a nearby hotel until they could be picked up by their parents or another activity bus.