One killed in accident involving school bus

Published 8:17 pm Monday, April 23, 2012

SAFFORD — Parents, teachers and administrators filled the emergency room at Vaughan Regional Medical Center as they waited for reports and treatment on 16 students who were injured when the bus they were riding was rear-ended by a passenger truck Monday afternoon.

Dallas County Superintendent of Education Dr. Fannie Major-McKenzie said, “from what I have been told, none of the students’ injuries were considered life-threatening.” Full details on student injuries were not made available.

The driver of the passenger truck was killed in the accident. Authorities were withholding his name until his family could be notified.

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According to Alabama State Troopers, the crash occurred shortly after 3:30 p.m. on Alabama Hwy. 5, near the intersection of Dallas County Road 101.

In their initial investigation, troopers said the bus — which was carrying students from Keith, Five Points Elementary and Salem Elementary — was traveling north on Alabama Hwy. 5 when it came to a stop to unload students. In fact, officials said there were three students getting ready to step off the bus when it was slammed in the rear by the truck.

One of the students who was on the bus, and had been treated at Vaughan, described the whole experience as “shocking” as seats were ripped and windows were shattered.

“There were a few children getting ready to get off the bus. I wasn’t paying attention, I was looking down at my phone,” Keith Middle School student Zarria Gladden said. “Then, when the man hit us, I felt a big boom. I felt a lot of glass splashing.”

Gladden, a seventh grader, who was treated and released from Vaughan for what she described as minor stomach pain, said she was doing OK, but was concerned by her fellow students.

“My stomach still hurts a little bit,” Gladden said. “I’m still scared. I hope everyone is alright.”

Gladden’s grandmother, Carrie, said she was “scared to death” when she got the call from her granddaughter to come to the emergency room.

“I tried to get to her … the first thing I asked her was they (the students) okay and she said just come and get them,” Carrie said. “I thank God that she — that all the kids — are OK.”

A total of 16 students were in the bus at the time of the crash. All of them were transported by ambulance or another school bus for treatment and observation. “I cannot thank the first responders who were there so quickly enough,” McKenzie said. “They were there so quick, and immediately began tending to the students.”

McKenzie said once she got the call — shortly after the accident — she headed to the hospital to meet the students.

“I have been here, making sure the students, whose parents weren’t able to get here right away, were taken care of,” McKenzie said. “Pretty much, I’ve been going curtain to curtain checking in on everyone.”


– Times-Journal editor Tim Reeves contributed to this report