BY KEN LITTLE
Life is getting back to normal at David Crockett High School, as a Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) investigation continues into a bus crash Sept. 20 that injured at least 27 students.
A THP Critical Response Team continues to gather evidence, while members of the Criminal Investigations Division conduct interviews with students who were on Bus 88 when it went off the road and rolled at least three times before coming to rest.
The accident occurred in the 400 block of Mt. Wesley Road, a hilly, curve-filled road not far from the Erwin Highway in Washington County.
Investigators will present their case next week to the office of Tony Clark, 1st Judicial District attorney general, THP spokeswoman Dalya Qualls said Thursday.
No charges have been filed in relation to the crash.
41 STUDENTS ON BUS
Bus driver Brenda K. Gray, 54, suffered minor injuries. Gray remains on unpaid suspension pending completion of the THP investigation, Washington County Schools spokeswoman Susan Kiernan said Friday.
The latest count of students who were riding the bus when it crashed is 41, well under initial estimates in the 50s and 60s, Kiernan said.
In the hours after the crash, several students were airlifted or taken by ambulance to area hospitals. Twelve students spent the first night after the crash in Johnson City Medical Center.
The last student was released from JCMC on Tuesday night.
Students suffered a range of injuries. They included neck and spinal injuries, a serious scalp laceration, broken bones and abdominal injuries.
WAITING ON THP
"We're waiting to hear from the THP about their conclusions from the accident," Kiernan said.
The 14-year-old school bus was thoroughly inspected by the THP at the district bus garage. The bus was a replacement vehicle used to fill in for others in daily service.
Gray was driving her regular route at the time of the crash.
Some students who were on the bus said one or more of the tires appeared to be bald. Other students and a witness to the crash said the bus was traveling fast on the narrow road as it topped a hill just before the accident occurred.
"We would have not put that [bus] on the road if we thought there were issues with the bus," Kiernan said.
"[Replacement buses] are still in great shape, and we would never put a bus on the road we didn't think was 100 percent safe."
'SUPPORTED EACH OTHER'
Preliminary investigation results show that, as the bus was traveling on Mt. Wesley Road, "the tires dropped off the right side of the roadway, the driver overcorrected and the bus overturned," Qualls said.
Extra counselors were available for David Crockett High School students after the crash.
"There wasn't an overabundance" of students who sought counseling, Kiernan said.
Many coped in their own ways, including putting up a prayer wall at the school, she said, adding, "They were supporting each other."