More Details About Last Week's School Bus Crash PDF Print E-mail
News - Local News
Monday, 04 December 2017 10:30
Sunlight might have played a part in an Alabama woman crashing into a Chattooga County school bus Tuesday afternoon.
Sheena Smith was driving a blue Dodge Caravan west when she rammed into the back of a bus stopped on Highway 337. The crash happened in front of Lookout Hall church of Christ around 4:50 p.m.
"I heard the boom," said Chris Woods, who is a minister at the church. 
He rushed outside and immediately spotted the bus and demolished van. The 20,000-pound school bus had seven students aboard and none were injured, according to Chattooga Schools Transportation Director Mike Jarrett.
"[The students] said they did not feel a whole lot, just a little jolt," Jarrett said.
The crash was not a direct, rear-end collision. The Alabama woman struck the rear of the driver's side of the bus. The weight and sturdiness of the bus protected the children onboard, Jarrett said.
The bus driver, Dennis Tucker, who's been driving with the school system for 10 years, had followed protocol and put the brake on to allow a group of students off the bus at the time of the wreck. The weight of the bus and having the brake engaged dampened the blow to the back of the bus even more, Jarrett said.
"The bus did not move. We looked to see if it had slid. It had not moved any. There were no marks on the road [from the bus tires]," Jarrett said. 
Smith was taken by ambulance to a hospital for her injuries. 
Jarrett praised the bus driver for keeping calm during and after the wreck. 
"He does a good job. Kids love him. Parents love him. He has a good relationship with the parents and kids. He handled himself very professionally," Jarrett said.
Tucker drives bus 66 and that route covers the Teloga area (Hwy. 337, Cooper Road, York Road, Harrisburg Road, etc.), according to Jarrett. 
"It's something we face every day when buses are out there," Jarrett said. "You get those phone calls and your heart stops for a while. But then you get yourself together and go take care of what you need to do."
Tucker kept in contact with school officials through a radio on the bus. The school sent another bus to take the remaining children home. An EMT evaluated the children to make sure they were OK before they left.
"He had only two more stops left," Jarrett said. 
The bus that was involved in the crash was a 2005 model. 
"It's going to be pretty costly to fix," Jarrett said. 
While the van's damages were apparent, the bus damage was less dramatic looking. 
"Compared to the car, the bus does not look that bad," Jarrett said. "We will take it next week to get an estimate. We will see what kind of damages we are talking about."
The school system operates 33 routes and provides transportation for about 1,500 students each day, Jarrett said. The age of the bus fleet ranges from a 2001 model to the current year. 
"Bus drivers have a lot of responsibilities. It's a tough job and I have a lot of respect for the drivers that do this every day," Jarrett said.

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