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Bus crash shakes up Smithsburg students

September 25, 2000

Bus crash shakes up Smithsburg students



By MARLO BARNHART and LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writers

see also: Couple has warned state Foxville Road curve unsafe

SMITHSBURG - The driver of a school bus that sideswiped a dump truck on the way to Smithsburg schools Monday morning, sending 39 students to the hospital, will not be charged.

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Maryland State Police blamed the wet and winding road for the accident. None of the middle or high school students was seriously hurt.

Christine Ann Wachsmuth, 36, of Smithsburg, was driving the school bus on Foxville Road heading toward Smithsburg with a full load of 46 students when her bus began to slide down the slick and steep road, said Maryland State Police Trooper 1st Class Douglas Bird.

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Wachsmuth wasn't able to steer out of the skid and the bus crossed the center line at a sharp curve, Bird said.

James A. Bowers, who was driving the oncoming dump truck, said he steered to the right, hugging a guard rail, and slowed to about 10 mph in the 25 mph curve.

"I saw her coming. There was nothing I could do," said Bowers, 24, of Chewsville.

Bus 38C remained upright, although the front windshield was smashed and the driver's side tire was flattened by the impact.

The bus driver refused to be taken to the hospital, but was treated at the scene for glass cuts on her hands, said Smithsburg Ambulance Chief Jason Sturn.

Ten ambulances from six area stations took 26 students to the hospital. As a precaution, rescue crews used neck collars and back boards to immobilize the students.

Another bus picked up the rest of the students and took them to school, and parents were notified about the accident.

After dropping off the first load of students, ambulances returned to the middle school to pick up 13 students who had begun to complain of pain and stiffness.

In the lobby of the school, rescue crews lined up the students and had each one put hands on the neck of the student in front of them to keep them from moving until they could be placed on backboards.

"Any time you have an accident, certainly we want to take every precaution we can," said Chris Carter, School Board director of transportation.

Twenty-six of the injured students went to Washington County Hospital. Eleven were taken to Waynesboro (Pa.) Hospital and two went to Frederick Memorial Hospital.

All were treated and released for minor injuries such as contusions, sprains and strains, hospital officials said.

Although there were initial reports that one student had moderate injuries, that turned out to be false.

The ambulances that responded were from Hagerstown, Boonsboro, Smithsburg, Waynesboro, Emmitsburg and Myersville, Sturn said.

Never does Sturn remember taking so many people to the hospital after an accident.

"You train for things like this but you don't even think it's going to happen," Sturn said.

The Smithsburg High School students who were not hurt were given the option of going home and several did, said Principal Jeff Stouffer.

Eric Prieto, 17, who is from Venezuela, told his mother in Spanish that he put his hands forward right before the impact.

Eric and his sister, Cardenas Prieto, 15, weren't hurt, but they were shaken up, so their mother wanted them to spend the rest of the day at home.

"I think it's better," said Jacqueline Prieto, who found out about the accident when Eric called her from school.

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