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Students ok after bus crash

WINDSOR – Charges are pending following an accident involving a school bus occupied by 11 students here Wednesday evening.

According to a report filed by North Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper J.G. Williams, a school bus was stopped on U.S. 13/U.S. 17 in Windsor when a Honda passenger car switched lanes. The car stopped, but a tractor-trailer which was also in the left lane of the four-lane highway, struck the rear of the Honda, forcing it into the school bus.

“The stop sign was out and the red lights were activated (on the bus),” Trooper Williams said.

The operator of the car, the school bus driver and 11 students were transported to Bertie Memorial Hospital. Some were treated for minor injuries and all were released.

Bertie County Schools Public Information Officer Brent Todd said the bus was occupied by students from the 21st Century After-School Program that is operated at Bertie Middle School.

“All of the students were transported to Bertie Memorial as a precaution, but none were injured,” Todd said.

Bertie County School Superintendent Dr. Chip Zullinger arrived at the scene and went to the hospital with the students. He said all were checked and released.

Dr. Zullinger was also appreciative of the work of the Windsor Fire Department at the scene of the accident.

“I think every fireman in Windsor was there trying to help out,” Dr. Zullinger said. “Chief Billy Smithwick and the members of the fire department are always supportive in situations like this and we appreciate all they did for our students.”

The bus was damaged in the accident, according to Assistant Superintendent of Schools Kenneth Perry. He said there was damage to the side of the bus and one air conditioning unit was pushed under the bus.

He said the bus would be repaired.

While thankful for the lack of injuries in this incident, Dr. Zullinger, Perry and Todd all stressed the need for motorists to be cautious around school buses.

“Please be mindful that students are entering or exiting a school bus if it is stopped and the stop arm is activated,” Dr. Zullinger said. “Stop for those buses and allow those students to enter or exit safely.”

Perry said it was imperative for bus drivers to be allowed to do their jobs well.

“Our bus drivers are attempting to do their jobs and get students to and from school safely,” Perry said. “We need the public’s help in that endeavor.”

Todd said the district has several after-school programs that use buses.

“We have school buses on the roads as late as 8:30 p.m.,” Todd said. “While it may be unusual to see a bus at that time, it is as important as ever to make sure you drive safely and stop when the school bus stops.”