Alabama District Mourns Death of School Bus Driver Killed in Crash

Pat Mitchell, Mobile County Public Schools director of transportation, places flowers on a school bus wheel in memory of driver Kimberleigh Welch, who died in a crash on Oct. 10, 2019. (Facebook/Mobile County Public Schools.)
Pat Mitchell, Mobile County Public Schools director of transportation, places flowers on a school bus wheel in memory of driver Kimberleigh Welch, who died in a crash on Oct. 10, 2019. (Facebook/Mobile County Public Schools.)

Mobile County Public Schools bus driver Kimberleigh Welch, 32, died after another motorist cut her off near an offramp on Interstate 65, where the vehicles collided and the bus overturned.

Welch was transported to University Hospital in Mobile, Ala., on Thursday, where she succumbed to her injuries.

“The kids and the staff at her school loved her and thought the world of her,” said Pat Mitchell, director of transportation for Mobile County Public Schools. “This is a very somber day for us as one of our heroes is gone. We will forever remember her.”

Alabama State Troopers are continuing to investigate the Oct. 10 crash, but Lt. Joe Piggott of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency confirmed that Brandon Barner, 22, was arrested and charged with homicide by vehicle.

Piggot said Barner was driving a 2017 Nissan Altima when he struck Welch’s 2005 IC Bus. No students were on board at the time, as Welch had just completed her morning run to Pathway Alternative School. Another motorist who was also involved in the resulting collision was uninjured, as was Barner.

Mobile County Public Schools posted on its Facebook page that the “beloved” Welch had driven for the district since February 2018.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our Mobile County Public Schools’ family members. … Mrs. Welch was a very well-liked, caring and dedicated bus driver and volunteer for our district,” said MCPSS Superintendent Chresal Threadgill. “We extend our sincere sympathy to the Welch family. During times such as this, it is difficult to find comfort. However, we hope that each individual life that Mrs. Welch has touched will always remember the fond memories and times shared with her.”

Welch, who is survived by husband David and their children, is the second school bus driver as of this report to die in the line of duty this school year, according to School Transportation News research. Another bus driver in Ohio was murdered last month as he left his house to drive to work.