ALBEMARLE — At least 12 students visited the hospital for medical treatment after a serious bus crash along 24/27 in the early morning hours of Thursday, Nov. 7. As a Stanly County school bus that services West Stanly Middle School and West Stanly High School students was stopped to pick up passengers, a large tractor trailer rammed the bus from behind. Four students were transported to the hospital by ambulance and at least eight others arrived later on their own.
Another vehicle, a white truck, was involved as well, and was driven by a West Stanly High School student. The student’s truck flipped and was likely totaled.
“It’s an unfortunate accident that could have been a lot worse,” said Dr. Jeff James, superintendent of Stanly County Schools. “We’re over here at the hospital, myself, some people from central office and some principals, just waiting with the parents to determine if there are any significant injuries.”
James said there had not been any significant injuries reported among the students yet, and most complaints were that their head or stomach hurt after the incident.
“It’s just a testament to the quality of school buses. They’re built like a tank,” he said. “You look at the transfer truck, and it tore it all to pieces.”
The driver of the tractor trailer that hit the bus was taken to the hospital and reportedly did suffer injuries, including broken bones. Witnesses on scene said there were about 65 feet of skid marks from the tractor trailer before the crash site, showing he attempted to stop.
“The truck just didn’t see the bus until it was too late,” James said.
“We’re actually going to be talking with DOT officials to see if we can get some signs put up that say, ‘School Bus Stop Ahead,'” James said. “Because it is a straight-away where people are doing 55 [mph] and with a transfer truck, it’s just not easy to stop something with that much weight on it.”
James said there is also sometimes confusion from other drivers about if the flashing yellow lights mean “caution” or “stop.” He reiterated that if a bus has flashing yellow lights, other drivers must stop.
“It probably did total the bus, which is a newer bus, maybe four years old,” James said. “The driver is one of our better drivers — been doing it for years. He’s okay, but he’s shaken up. He came in apologizing, and we said, ‘There’s nothing you could have done. You did everything right.’ He followed protocol and is a great bus driver.”