Car strikes bus, 15 injured

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 1, 2003

ST JOHN – A glaring sun may be to blame for an early morning traffic accident involving a Hertford County school bus and a passenger vehicle on NC 561 in St. John Monday that left one person in critical condition, and 14 others reporting injury.

However, it’s only speculation at this point as to what caused Tony O’Neil Sessoms, 29, to drive his 1994 Nissan Sentra into the back of a stopped school bus, injuring himself and his younger brother, Emanuel Cherry, 10.

The wreck occurred at approximately 7:25 Monday morning, and both vehicles were headed east on NC 561 and into a blinding sun.

According to the report filed by North Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper J.T. Lane, the school bus, operated by Mary Vaughan Earley, had stopped to pick up a child in the 1100 block off NC 561 West.

The driver had all lights operating and the stop arm was out and the child being picked up had made it to about the second row of seats when the impact took place, Lane reported.

The Nissan appeared to never break or to even slow prior to impact, pushing the front of the passenger vehicle well under the rear of the bus.

This has led some rescue workers on the scene to believe the driver never saw the bus and therefore never attempted to slow down, making impact at near the speed limit of 45 miles per hour.

Lane would not comment on what may have caused the accident, saying only that charges had not been filed as of 3 p.m. Monday, pending further investigation.

It was reported that Sessoms, a former resident of Ahoskie, was coming from Raleigh when the wreck occurred.

Sessoms shows a Raleigh address as his current home.

Because of the time of the wreck, motorists were backed up for miles and rerouted through Union in an effort to keep traffic moving.

Along with the Hertford County Emergency Management team, others responding to the scene were St. John and Ahoskie fire departments as well as Hertford County and Ahoskie rescue squads.

Sessoms was transported to Roanoke-Chowan Hospital in Ahoskie and airlifted to Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville where he was listed in critical condition late Monday afternoon.

Cherry was transported to Roanoke-Chowan Hospital in Ahoskie and his condition was unknown at press time Monday.

There were 22 students on the bus at the time of the wreck, 13 of them were complaining of some type of injury, but none believed to be serious or life threatening.

All 22 students were taken to the hospital in Ahoskie to be checked out, a call made by Hertford County school authorities.

The driver of the bus was not reported as injured.