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Va. driver dead, 11 students treated at hospital after car-school bus crash on I-81 in W.Va.

May 02, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A Front Royal, Va., man died Wednesday morning and 11 children were hurt when the car he was driving struck a school bus on Interstate 81 south of Martinsburg, authorities said.

Mark Allen Diggs, 42, was thrown from the Subaru Outback he was driving in the crash reported about 6:45 a.m. near the Tabler Station Road exit, according to West Virginia State Police and emergency dispatch officials.

Teresa McCabe, spokeswoman for City Hospital in Martinsburg, said six students among the nearly 40 children aboard the bus were taken by ambulance to the hospital with minor injuries. Five other students were brought to the hospital by their parents, she said.

McCabe said all of the students suffered minor injuries, such as contusions, sprains and orthopedic strains.

As of 3 p.m., all of the students had been treated and released, she said.

McCabe said the parents of the students at the hospital had been notified.

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She said the crisis team from the WVUH-East Behavioral Health unit was available throughout the morning to assist the students and their families as needed.

Thirty-one other students who were on Bus 108 were examined at the crash site and then taken to their schools,  Musselman Middle and Musselman High, according to Leah Daniel, communications coordinator for the Berkeley County School system.

The male driver of the bus was not injured, Daniel said.

The driver was not identified by police or school officials, but Daniel said he has been a regular driver for a year and a half.

The Subaru that Diggs was driving traveled off the left edge of the northbound lanes of I-81, crossed the grassy median and struck the front left quarter panel of the bus, police said.

The impact knocked the Subaru around into the left side of the bus before momentum carried the car back into the median where it stopped. Diggs was thrown from the vehicle and into the median, police said.

Meanwhile, the bus veered off the east side of the southbound lane into the median, but the driver managed to maintain enough control to prevent the bus from rolling over as it stopped, police said.

Daniel did not know the extent of the damage to the bus, but said it had to be towed.

The southbound lanes of I-81 were shut down for about an hour, and northbound motorists were channeled into one lane as a result of the crash,  Berkeley County Fire Capt. Edgar “Eddie” Gochenour said.

Both northbound lanes were shut down for about 10 minutes as the students who were not taken to the hospital for treatment boarded another bus, Gochenour said.

The students were very well behaved, Gochenour said.

“The bus driver did an excellent job,” Gochenour said. 

The crash came amid a school bus safety-awareness initiative that is under way this week in West Virginia to address illegal passing of school buses by other motorists.

State troopers are boarding buses on various routes across the state in an effort to catch violators and raise public awareness, the state Department of Education announced Monday.

About 600 motorists illegally pass stopped school buses every school day in West Virginia.

Staff Writer Dan Dearth contributed to this story.

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