An East Lampeter school bus crash has sent 16 people to the hospital, including all 14 students who were on the bus. At least two students reportedly suffered trauma injuries and were transferred to children’s hospitals after the school bus flipped onto its side during a hit and run accident. Although none of the injuries were fatal in this incident, the harm caused during a school bus crash is often devastating. It was the second bus accident involving Pennsylvania students in only days and could renew calls for increased safety on school buses.
Student Ejected from Bus During East Lampeter School Bus Crash
According to reports, the bus crash happened in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday, May 17, as the Lancaster Mennonite school bus took students to school in the morning. A sedan that tried to pass two semi-trucks and their escort vehicles hit the back of one of the escort vehicles, pushing it into the oncoming lane where it collided with the bus. The bus then hit one of the semi-trucks and flipped onto its side.
All 14 students on the bus as well as the bus driver and the driver of a different vehicle were taken to hospital. One of the students was reportedly ejected from the bus in the accident. Two students suffered serious injuries while the other injured were tended to at the hospital and released. On the bus were 12 students from high school, one from middle school, and one from elementary school.
The elementary student is a six-year-old boy who was left “struggling for his life” after the East Lampeter school bus crash. His condition is considered critical, although he showed some improvement following the bus crash.
The driver of the sedan left the scene, causing authorities to issue an alert for a newer-model, light-colored sedan with a male driver.
“[The driver’s] side of the story is very important to us,” said East Lampeter Township Police Chief John Bowman. “It’s pretty much all hands on deck to locate the vehicle and hopefully have a conversation with the driver.”
Lancaster Mennonite School Responds to Crash
Following the East Lampeter school bus crash, Lancaster Mennonite School issued a statement regarding the accident.
“Thank you for your prayers as our school community continues to heal, physically and emotionally, from Wednesday’s bus accident,” the school posted on its Facebook page. “Our most seriously injured student is in critical but stable condition while in Pediatric Intensive Care.”
Bus Crash the Second Involving Students in a Week
The East Lampeter school bus crash was the second crash involving Pennsylvania students in less than a week. On May 15, a charter bus traveling along I-95 near Havre de Grace in Maryland was involved in a crash that injured 26 students and four adults. The crash occurred around 9:30 a.m. as the bus was carrying students from C.W. Henry School in Mt. Airy to Washington D.C. One of the students was airlifted to a children’s hospital in Delaware in critical condition. A teacher who was in critical condition was taken by air to the University of Maryland R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center.
Other injured passengers were taken to local hospitals for treatment.
A preliminary investigation suggested that a vehicle lost control while attempting to pass the bus, then swerved back and collided with the front of the bus. The bus was pushed off an embankment where it hit a tree and overturned.
The charter bus carrying the students to Washington, D.C., is operated by Werner Coach. The company has had two crashes in the past year, one in February and one in October 2016. There were no injuries in either of those crashes.
“Werner Coach wishes to express its sorrow and sympathy to those impacted by this accident,” a statement from the bus company reads.
Witnesses Describe Aftermath of Crash
Joseph Vigilante was driving to New York on the other side of the highway and stopped to help out after the crash. He and several others, including a bus carrying police officers who were traveling to Washington, pulled students from the bus and aided the student who was ejected from the bus.
“I witness this young girl crawling out of the woods,” Vigilante said. “She had been thrown from the bus. So I stopped her put my jacket on to her head and went towards the bus.”
Frank Drolet, a taxi driver, came upon the scene and pulled over.
“It was heart-wrenching,” Drolet said. “I was praying the whole time. I’m still thinking about it. The damage can be fixed; I just hope the people are OK.”
A statement from Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite Jr. expressed gratitude to the first responders and doctors and nurses who assisted the students and chaperones.
“Our thoughts and prayers remain with everyone involved in this accident and the entire Charles Henry School Community during this difficult time.”
Police continue to investigate the crash and have not indicated what charges the driver of the car that clipped the bus could face, though officials do not believe alcohol or distraction were factors in the accident. Interstate 95 was closed in both directions for a few hours following the crash.
Bus Crash Safety
With each bus crash—especially bus crashes involving students—comes renewed concerns about safety. Safety advocates are pushing to have seat belts included on buses, especially buses responsible for transporting children. Both of the accidents in the past week reportedly involved students who were ejected from the bus, possibly contributing to more serious injuries. In situations where buses rollover or flip on their side, having effective restraints can mean the difference between minor injuries or much more catastrophic damage.
Perhaps the most notorious recent bus crash was the November 21, 2016, bus crash in Chattanooga, in which five students were killed when a bus sped along a narrow road and crashed into a telephone pole. Bus driver Johnthony Walker was charged with numerous counts of vehicular manslaughter in the tragedy.