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Parents seeking bus accident answers

October 05, 2000

Parents seeking bus accident answers



By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer


Parents of students riding a school bus that collided with a dump truck on Md. 77 in Smithsburg two weeks ago showed up at the Washington County Board of Education central office Thursday night looking for answers.

"Why did this accident happen?" said Wayne King, who had three children on the bus. "Why did that bus go off the road? Nobody has come up with an answer."

About 45 parents and students attended the meeting to talk about the crash with the School Board Director of Transportation Chris Carter.

Forty-seven middle and high school students were headed to school in Smithsburg when the bus slid around a curve and hit the dump truck, according to Carter. Thirty-nine students were taken to local hospitals but no one was admitted.

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The road has a history of accidents, according to parents.

The driver, Christine Ann Wachsmuth, 36, of Smithsburg, was back on the job the next day.

Carter, who didn't directly answer King's question, said the School Board is looking into every possible option that might prevent a similar incident.

"My interest in the students' safety is paramount," Carter said. "No matter what I say to you, each one of you will make your own decisions. All I can say to you is I'm doing everything I possibly can to assure the safety of your child."

Carter said the board is considering re-routing the bus off Md. 77, shortening the bus route and decreasing the number of students on the bus. He said he'll let parents know by Tuesday of any changes in travel time.

Parents, however, were lobbying for a new bus driver.

Some parents and students said they believed the bus was going too fast around the curve.

Wachsmuth was not at the meeting. Reached at her home Thursday night, she said that was not the case.

"I am so cautious of these turns," Wachsmuth said. "I hate them. I made the first turn and I was praying, 'Lord keep us safe on these turns.' I wasn't speeding at all."

Wachsmuth said a combination of a wet road and not enough room to make the turn caused the crash. She said if the dump truck hadn't been coming up the hill around the curve when the bus was going down, the accident would not have happened.

She noted that her own children were on the bus when the accident happened.

She was not charged by state police.

Carter told parents that Wachsmuth is in compliance with all state and federal transportation requirements and state education codes.

Parents said they'll continue to fear putting their children on the bus until they get satisfactory answers.

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