04/06/05 — Students unhurt when car hits bus

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Students unhurt when car hits bus

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on April 6, 2005 1:47 PM

A motorist rear-ended a stopped Wayne County school bus on Nahunta Road this morning, injuring herself and her young passenger.

Both people were transported to Wayne Memorial Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Their names and conditions were not available at press time.

The bus driver and the 28 students who were headed to Northwest Elementary School were uninjured, although they had to be moved onto another bus to go to school.

"Everybody seems to be fine," said Northwest Elementary Principal Alex Wingate, who came to the scene after getting a call from the bus driver. "I appreciate the way the fire departments have responded."

Around 7:45 a.m., the bus had just picked up passengers in the 1800 block of Nahunta Road. The driver, Claudette Branch Rook, 66, of Memorial Church Road, was moving the bus forward when it was hit by a Chevrolet Celebrity, according to Trooper B.W. Overton of the N.C. Highway Patrol.

The vehicle wedged under the bus' frame, and its hood crumpled into its windshield. But the bus did not appear to have much damage.

Buses are constructed with reinforced bodies, said Raymond Smith, director of transportation for the Wayne County Public Schools. "They're specifically built for impact."

The county schools have already recorded six or seven rear-end collisions this year, Smith said. Motorists seem to forget that buses make frequent stops and starts, he added.

The Pikeville-Pleasant Grove and Nahunta fire departments responded, as did Wayne County EMS, which transported the Chevrolet's passengers.

The county school system conducts its own investigation of every bus accident, Smith said. Drivers are asked for their versions of the accidents, which are then compared to reports filed by law enforcement officers.

If a school driver seems to be at fault, an internal investigation is conducted. The school system does not have the authority to interview the other motorists or witnesses, he said.

Regardless of fault, all bus drivers have to go through a drug screening after accidents, Smith said.

The school system has 225 buses on regular routes 180 days a year, he said. "We're bound to have accidents, but most of the time, it's not our drivers' fault."