SMYRNA, Tenn. (WKRN) – It was scary morning Monday for a bus load of students in Smyrna after a car plowed into them.
The crash happened during the busy rush hour around 7:45 a.m. at the intersection of Old Nashville Highway and Hazelwood Drive as the students were on their way to Smyrna High School.
The bus driver is being hailed a hero after making sure the students were okay even after suffering an injury to her leg.
The bus was carrying about 49 students and was coming to a stop at the intersection when all of a sudden a car hit the driver’s side front.
“We believe the bus contact was probably secondary contact from another accident which occurred, a collision incurred, one of the vehicles veered off striking the bus,” Smyrna Police Capt. Jeff Dwier said.
Students were off loaded and checked for injuries.
School officials tell News 2 several students and the bus driver, Pam Garner, were taken to the hospital, all with minor injuries.
The students who were not hurt were taken to Smyrna High School on two different buses or released to their parents.
The intersection had to be shut down.
“Rush hour is difficult enough. You throw a bus in on top of that with all the students and the just the number and the responding parents obviously concerned for their children, it makes a pretty crazy scene for a moment,” Capt. Dwier said.
Even though the bus driver’s leg was injured, it didn’t stop her from making sure all the students were okay.
“She pretty much took some of the brunt of the force of course it hit her side of the bus, but she still jumped up and helped the kids get off the bus,” Rutherford County Schools spokesman James Evans said.
School officials said it wasn’t the bus driver’s fault.
“She hasn’t been cited or anything like that. Apparently it was the other vehicle’s fault,” Evans said.
A fellow bus driver was on the scene and says Garner was an experienced driver.
“I was just worried about the kids and the driver, you know,” Christy Morton said. “I offered my assistance with my bus because I was done. Another bus was already here, she was closer, so I jumped in my car and came on over here. We take care of each other, we worry about each other.”
Rutherford County school bus drivers and owners are contracted with the county.
School officials told News 2 since the bus has been taken out of service for repairs, if a substitute bus is not available, other bus drivers will fill the void and run the route. Parents will be notified.
Students were shocked, in disbelief
Smyrna High School student Tiffany Hassell was sitting in the middle of the bus when a car ran into it.
“Here’s the bus; it hit us on the side, on the bus driver’s side like the corner of the bus,” Hassell said as she demonstrated with her hands who the collision happened.
“It hit us so hard like everyone on the bus just jerk frontward and after that everybody was in complete total shock,” she continued.
She was one of the 20 students injured or checked by hospital staff, according to school officials.
“My neck and my back were hurting after it, and other than that my head,” Hassell told News 2.
“Some people were talking to other people making sure they were okay, the bus driver was talking to some people,” Hassell recalled. “Everybody was making sure everybody else was okay at the same time being in complete shock.”
Smyrna police say two other vehicles were in an accident and one of the cars ran into the front part of the bus.
“We did really good at not at flipping out at screaming and panicking,” Hassell said.
Hassell’s sister Charleena Carter is thankful no one was seriously injured.
“The first thing I really saw was my sister’s best friend on the stretcher. She wasn’t really conscious so I started crying. It scared me; it scared me really badly, and as soon as I saw my sister I felt a lot better,” Carter said.
Schools spokesman Evans said anytime there is a bus accidents people wonder if seatbelts would have made a difference.
“It’s an ongoing national debate,” Evans said. “Some people will argue that the seats are designed in a bus that they don’t need seatbelts, they’re high and padded, and it’s easier to get kids off the bus quickly if there were like a fire or something like that; others will say they need seatbelts. It’s just an ongoing debate you’ll hear from safety advocates.”
A TriStar StoneCrest public information officer told News 2 the bus driver has been released from the hospital and a few kids there for observation.