A school bus traveling its morning route in Liberty County, Georgia ran off the road and into a tree, killing one five-year-old student and injuring 22 others.
The school bus was the only vehicle involved in the Tuesday accident, the Liberty County School System said in a statement. Lt. Thornell King, assistant troop commander for the Georgia State Patrol, said GSP got the call just before 7 a.m. Tuesday morning. He told FOX28 that the bus “ran along the ditch before impacting with the tree” and that the hit “was a rather strong one.”
The children on the bus ranged in age from 4 to 12. Eyewitness Clay Rowe was the first person to come upon the bus. After calling 911, he gathered the children spilling off the bus together and attempted to calm them down. “I'll tell you, if we're going to do anything, we need to pray for the kids, and they are going to need counseling.” Rowe told WTOC.com. “We’re all going to have to pull together.”
All of the students, as well as school bus driver Evelyn Rodriguez, were taken to local hospitals. Injuries sustained were not life-threatening, according to Lt. King. One of the hospitals, Winn Army Community Hospital, said that all 13 of the students it received came in “attentive and alert” and were all released within hours.
GSP identified the one fatality as 5-year-old Cambria Shuman. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the student’s family in their time of grief,” said Dr. Patti Crane, the district’s chief information officer, in a statement posted to the district’s website. “Grief counselors have been made available to all students and staff.”
“We ask that you keep the families and friends of the Liberty County School System bus students and driver affected by this morning’s tragedy in your thoughts and prayers,” requested Liberty Regional Medical Center, which received several students after the crash.
Lt. King acknowledged that “the issue may come up: ‘Do you think that, if the bus had seat belts, would it have saved someone’s life?' I don’t think that, in this case, that would have mattered,” he continued. He confirmed that the death of the 5-year-old girl was caused by blunt force trauma and resulted “from the impact.”
“We don’t know why all of a sudden the bus left the roadway,” said Lt. King. He added that on-board video would be reviewed to gain insights. The bus was taken back to the Liberty County bus barn to be inspected, though King noted that from what he understood it was just inspected last month. Driver error would also be investigated, he said.
Shuman's death is the second-confirmed school bus fatality nationwide this school year.
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