At Least 25 Of 63
Injured In The Mt.
BY KEN LITTLE
TELFORD -- A Tennessee Highway Patrol investigation is under way into the school bus crash Thursday afternoon in the Mt. Wesley community of Washington County that injured at least 25 David Crockett High School students and the bus driver.
The crash happened shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday in the 400 block of Mt. Wesley Road, on a narrow, hilly roadway in the rural area.
For the 63 students on board the bus, what had been a normal ride home from school turned into 10 seconds of terror they will never forget.
Dakota Roush, 15, one of the students on the bus, was part of a group that gathered at Mt. Wesley United Methodist Church near the crash scene to wait for their parents.
Roush had bumps and a cut on his wrist, and vivid memories of the crash.
"The front tire hit the ditch and it started swaying back and forth and the back tire hit the ditch on the other side of the road and it just started flipping," Roush said.
The school bus rolled at least three times before coming to rest on its side. School buses in Tennessee do not have seat belts.
"There was a lot of screaming going on. Everybody was piled on top of me. It happened in less than 10 seconds," Roush said.
Students started to cry and get out of the bus.
"A girl had a big gash on her head, and part of her face was hanging down. A couple kids had bad leg injuries," Roush said.
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," THP spokeswoman Dalya Qualls said.
Several students said at least two of the tires on the bus were bald.
Misty Herrell, who lives at 477 Mt. Wesley Road, witnessed the crash from the kitchen window of her mobile home.
"When I looked out the window, it was flipping. As I came out through the door. it came to a sliding halt," Herrell said. "Kids were crying. They were screaming."
Herrell called 911 and began to help the students out of the bus with her husband and aunt, Deborah Miller.
Miller let several stunned students use her cell phone to call their parents.
"There were so many kids hurt. I hope this is thoroughly investigated," she said.
Herrell frequently sees the bus pass her house in the afternoon.
"That bus does speed by here every day," she said. "It flys by. I hate to say anything like that, but that's the truth."
Students said the driver of Bus 88 was Brenda Gray. She was among those treated at Johnson City Medical Center.
Johnson City Medical Center spokeswoman Teresa Hicks said Thursday night that 18 patients were taken to the trauma hospital, including 17 students and the bus driver.
Five were treated at the JCMC Children's Hospital Emergency Department, and the remainder were treated at the JCMC Emergency Department.
Eight other students with less serious injuries were taken to Franklin Woods Community Hospital in Johnson City, and one was treated at Holston Valley Medical Center, Hicks said.
"Johnson City Medical Center received multiple patients by helicopter," Hicks said.
12 SPEND THE NIGHT
All the patients remaining today at JCMC were in stable condition, Hicks said.
Twelve people injured in the wreck spent the night at the hospital, she said this morning.
"Two of the students required surgery for their injuries," she said. "They came through surgery just fine."
Injuries suffered by the bus crash victims covered the gamut of trauma-related injuries, Hicks said.
"There were some neck and spinal injuries, there was a pretty serious scalp laceration, there were some broken bones, and there were some abdominal injuries," Hicks said.
Resources were strained when the influx of teenage patients started flowing into the hospital, but the medical staff responded well, Hicks said.
"The trauma surgeons who were in charge of the situation at JCMC were very much impressed by the coordination of effort by emergency services personnel who responded to the scene," Hicks said.
'CODE DELTA' PROTOCOL
JCMC instituted a disaster protocol called "Code Delta," she said.
Additional staff was called in, including physicians.
"Our trauma team was there," Hicks said.
"It was a remarkably smooth process. Anytime you have a situation like this, tension is high, especially for parents at the scene," she said.
"I think that everybody was very happy with the way that it flowed. I think the situation went very well," Hicks added.
For parents such as Barbara Story, whose 17-year-old son, David, was on the bus, the minutes spent waiting for news about the crash at Mt. Wesley United Methodist Church were excruciating.
"It was very chaotic, very scary. I really wanted my son to get here to make sure he was OK," Story said.
When the two were reunited, "It was a very intense emotional moment," she said.
ASSIST FROM GREENE CO.
Greene County-Greeneville Emergency Medical Services assisted Washington County EMS personnel, who were stretched thin by the bus crash.
"We were called in on a mutual aid," local EMS Director Robert Sayne said.
One local EMS ambulance was stationed in Jonesborough to answer other medical calls, while another was on standby if needed, Sayne said.
Washington County school officials said classes were held today at David Crockett High School. Counseling was available for students.
Meanwhile, THP continues its investigation into the crash.
Investigation protocol requires a driver to submit to a blood test following a school bus crash, and the school district is looking at any safety issues that may be a factor, district spokeswoman Susan Kiernan said.
The district is keeping parents updated on the district website, http://www.wcde.org
Herrell, for one, hopes the investigation provides some answers.
"They were very brave kids," Herrell said. "Even if some of those kids might say they weren't hurt, they will feel it tomorrow."