A 12-year-old Pleasant Hill Academy student remains in critical condition following a chain-reaction crash involving a school bus in Winton Hills, Cincinnati, Ohio. Nine other students from the school district, as well as the school bus driver and individuals from other vehicles involved, were hospitalized following the Cincinnati school bus crash, which officials believe was caused by a speeding driver.
School bus crashes are not uncommon in the U.S. and some, such as the 2016 crash in Tennessee that killed five students, are virtually unimaginable. Despite this, however, no federal regulations have been created to require the use of seatbelts on school buses—a move safety advocates say could prevent numerous injuries and even deaths.
Change may be on the horizon—the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) continues to research the matter — but it will be far too late for the families whose lives have been devastated by a bus crash tragedy.
Police Believe Driver Attempting to Pass Triggered Ohio School Bus Accident
The bus crash occurred on Winton Road at approximately 2:30 p.m. on April 23, 2018, as the school bus filled with Pleasant Hill Academy students was traveling southbound. Cincinnati Police say that 23-year-old Robert Jett Jr., who was traveling northbound, attempted to pass a vehicle and lost control of the 2011 Ford Crown Victoria he was driving.
Jett Jr. then rear-ended a 2005 Neon, which veered across the center line and into oncoming traffic, colliding with the school bus, which subsequently spun into a 2003 Ford Taurus. The school bus finally stopped when it struck a utility pole.
Cincinnati Police investigators say that excessive speed was a factor in the crash, and Cincinnati Police Lt. Steve Saunders said that charges against Jett Jr. are pending.
Multiple Individuals Remain Hospitalized After Pleasant Hills Academy School Bus Crash
Officials have not confirmed the number of students who were onboard at the time of the Cincinnati school bus crash, and there are varying reports as to how many students suffered injuries in the accident, with estimates ranging from a dozen students to at least twenty. One report said that the total number of people involved in the crash was forty.
One of the injured students is a twelve-year-old girl who has not been publicly identified but whose mother says she remains in critical condition in a coma with internal bleeding and a broken pelvis. She is being treated at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, according to Saunders.
Others injured include Jordan Ervin, who was driving the 2005 Neon. Rescuers had cut him free from the wreckage before transferring him to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. His two passengers—a 2-year-old and a 1-year-old—were also hospitalized after the crash. The 2-year-old was thrown from the vehicle during the crash and is listed in serious but stable condition, while the 1-year-old is listed in serious condition.
Trina Turnbow, who was driving the school bus, was also taken to University of Cincinnati Medical Center for her injuries, but is listed in fair condition.
Cincinnati Public Schools Releases Statement on Bus Crash
Following the crash Cincinnati Public Schools issued a statement on the incident, confirming where the accident had occurred and that “at least 11 children” were transported to an area hospital for treatment. The school district went on to inform parents about where they could find children who were on the bus and to clarify that only one school bus was involved in the Winton Hills school bus crash:
A CPS Assistant Superintendent is on site at Cincinnati Children’s to assist families taken for treatment there. A non-student was reportedly injured in the accident; CPD will have information about the status of this injury.
Pleasant Hill Academy Principal Shauna McDowell is on the bus with her students now; they will soon be en route to Winton Academy where students who were supposed to be on Bus Route #48 can pick up their students. These parents are in the process of receiving a call from CPS. Winton Academy Principal Ben Fulton is on site supporting families as well.
There was a report of multiple buses being involved; only one bus was involved in the accident, the other buses were called to the scene to transport uninjured children.
Safety Advocates Call for Seatbelts on School Buses Following Cincinnati School Bus Crash
An August 2017 report by the NHTSA found that an average of 131 fatalities occurred in school transportation-related crashes each year between 2006 and 2015 for a total of 1,313 fatalities in the entire period.
Statistics on how many children suffer non-fatal injuries in school bus crashes annually are more difficult to find. A study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that between 2001 and 2003 an average of 17,000 non-fatal school bus-related injuries occurred annually. The authors said it was a much higher number than what was previously reported.
Many safety experts believe that the key to reducing the number of injuries and fatalities on America’s school buses is to implement the use of three-point seatbelts. The NHTSA is currently looking for a contractor to oversee a five-year study on how the three-point seatbelts (also known as lap-shoulder seatbelts) affect the onboard behavior of students, as some believe they improve student’s overall behavior and limit driver distractions. The study could be the next step in a slow progression toward a federal rule on the matter.