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17 students hurt in school bus crash

October 30, 1998|By BRYN MICKLE

WOODSBORO, Md. - Police credited the quick thinking of a Frederick County school bus driver for saving the lives of the students she was driving when a dump truck crashed into the bus Thursday morning on Md. 550 near Pine Tree Road.

All 17 of the Walkersville High and Middle school students on the bus were injured, one of them seriously, according to Maryland State Police

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Two Walkersville Middle School students were flown by helicopter to the Johns Hopkins Hospital Children's Unit in Baltimore.

Kendra Dahack, 11, remained hospitalized in critical condition Thursday night. Josh Denn, 13, was treated at Hopkins and released.

The other 15 students and the bus driver, Connie P. Poole, 36, of Woodsboro, were treated at Frederick Memorial Hospital and released.

State police said Poole saw the out-of-control dump truck careening toward the bus at around 7:15 a.m. and steered the bus to avoid a head-on collision.

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The dump truck, carrying 65,000 pounds of stone, sideswiped the bus, ripping open the driver's side.

"When she swerved that few feet, she probably saved a few lives," Trooper Robert Calo said.

Poole had stopped the bus in the northbound lane of Md. 550 to pick up students headed to the middle and high schools.

Police said the driver of the dump truck, Joseph Gamber, 37, of Taneytown, Md., was southbound on Md. 550 and failed to see a tractor trailer that had stopped for the flashing lights of the stopped school bus.

Gamber swerved the dump truck onto the grassy shoulder to avoid hitting the tractor trailer and lost control as the truck went back onto the road, according to police.

A 50-mph speed limit is posted along the stretch of Md. 550 where the accident occurred and signs warn drivers to watch for stopped school buses.

Gamber was not injured in the accident.

Police said glare from the early morning sunlight might have impaired Gamber's vision and could have been a contributing factor.

Frederick County school officials said the parents of the students aboard the bus were called immediately after the accident and some came to the scene to take their children to the hospital.

The school district sent a team of counselors to talk to the students and their families at the hospital. Crisis teams also were to be at both schools today, school officials said.

Poole, who has been a Frederick County school bus driver for seven years, is a "well-loved member of our community," Paul Dunford, principal at Walkersville Middle School, said in a release.

Poole did not want to comment publicly on the accident, school officials said.




related story: The injured students

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