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School buses crash in W.Va.

dozens sent to hospitals

April 12, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. - A Monday afternoon accident between two Berkeley County, W.Va., school buses sent at least 29 Hedgesville students and both bus drivers to area hospitals.

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Of those taken to hospitals, 21 students and the two bus drivers were treated at Martinsburg City Hospital for cuts, bruises and, in some cases, sprains, said Berkeley County Schools spokeswoman Mary Jo Brown.

Five students were taken to Washington County Hospital in Hagerstown and three were taken to Winchester Medical Center in Virginia.

One student was held overnight for observation at Washington County Hospital, said Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny P. Arvon. That student was listed in fair condition Monday night, a hospital spokeswoman said.

All other students and both drivers had been treated and released from hospitals by Monday evening, according to hospital officials.

The accident occurred at about 2:50 p.m. when one of the school buses stopped at a railroad underpass on Riner Shop Road and was struck from behind by another school bus, said West Virginia State Police Trooper R.C. Copson.

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Police said George Miller, 43, of Hedgesville, was driving a bus carrying 41 students from Hedgesville Middle and High schools when he stopped the bus about a half-mile south of Grade Road to let another vehicle drive under the railroad tracks, said Copson.

The driver of the bus behind Miller did not see he had stopped and crashed into the back of Miller's bus, said Copson.

Christa Stewart, 38, of Martinsburg, was charged with failure to maintain control of her bus, said Copson.

Stewart's bus was carrying 55 students from Hedgesville Middle and High schools.

The impact caved in the front of Stewart's bus, which had to be towed from the scene, said Copson. The other bus was driven away from the accident scene, police said.

Berkeley County Schools officials will conduct an investigation of the accident and take steps to "make sure something like this never happens again," said Arvon.

"Looking at those students and the buses, those are the things you hope never happen," said Arvon.

Arvon would not comment on whether any disciplinary action would be taken and said he hopes an investigation will be completed quickly.

"I consider this very serious. I want to do everything I can to make sure our children are safe on our school buses," he said.

Monday's accident forced Martinsburg City Hospital to go into "disaster-handling mode" and pull in staff from other parts of the hospital, said hospital Assistant Administrator Sandra Cleaver.

Ambulances from around the area carried students to area hospitals and Cleaver said Martinsburg City Hospital had to make adjustments to make sure the students, as well as other emergency room visitors, were treated.

As parents learned of the accident and arrived at Martinsburg City Hospital. They waited in a private dining area while their children were seen by doctors, said Cleaver.

"There were as many as 10 or 12 parents here at one time," said Cleaver.

School officials praised the work of Berkeley County emergency workers and said parents did an excellent job taking children home and making sure other parents were notified of the accident.

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