01/27/11 — Driver charged in Duplin bus flip

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Driver charged in Duplin bus flip

By Gary Popp
Published in News on January 27, 2011 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- A substitute school bus driver has been charged with failure to maintain lane control by the state Highway Patrol after the bus she was driving overturned early Wednesday.

Tina Andrews, 39, of Beautancus Road, was the driver involved in the accident that occurred shortly after 7 a.m. on Ralph Sutton Road, which is located in north central Duplin County, about nine miles from Mount Olive.

A dozen of the 25 students on the bus from North Duplin Elementary School were taken to Duplin General Hospital, but all were released by 12:30 p.m. and returned to finish the school day.

Investigators with the Highway Patrol said Ms. Andrews ran off the side of the road, then tried to steer the bus back onto the highway, but overcorrected, and the bus struck a ditch and flipped over on its right side.

North Duplin principal Ben Sautter went to the scene as soon as he heard the news.

"When I first heard the news, I was sickened by the thought of any children being injured," he said. "I was able to speak to each of the children and see that they were OK."

While no serious injuries resulted, Sautter said many of the children were frightened.

"A kindergartner that was on the bus was pretty scared. He grabbed my leg, and I hugged him," Sautter said. "He was a little bit upset, but he was fine when he realized everything was OK."

Sautter said several Duplin County Schools administrators were on the scene, including Assistant Superintendent Bo Mullins, Director of Federal Programs Linda Smith and Director of Transpiration Jeff Thigpen.

Sautter said he and the other school officials did what they could to reassure the children that everything was fine.

"I want to praise all of the Board of Education members and first responders on the scene because everything was handled very well and went really smoothly," Sautter said. "It is good to have a strong support group to show up so quickly in a situation like that. We are fortunate to have such a talented group of people."

Sautter said many community members also gathered at the scene ready to do anything they could to help.

Duplin County Schools Director of Student Support Services B.G. Kennedy and Superintendent Dr. Austin Obasohan met Sautter and other school officials at the hospital.

"I was at the hospital the entire time until the children were released," Sautter said. "I was very relieved that there were no serious injuries."

Sautter said he was impressed with the staff of Duplin General Hospital.

"The provided coloring books and set up a refreshment booth for the kids to keep them occupied while waiting to be seen," Sautter said.

Sautter said a team of teachers and counselors was set up at the school to counsel any students who were upset or wanted to talk about the accident.