A school bus veered off a country road in western Howard County yesterday morning and flipped on its side, seriously injuring the driver and leaving five children with cuts and bruises, police said.
Bus driver Stephanie Delph, 28, was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center with broken limbs and other injuries after the crash about 8 a.m. on Folly Quarter Road near the private Glenelg Country School, authorities said.
Before the crash, Delph swerved to the right, dragging the front of the yellow school bus into the soft, muddy ground at the side of the road, said Pfc. David Proulx, a police spokesman. He said Delph then lost control of the bus, and it flipped onto its right side, hitting trees and branches as it skidded to a stop.
Proulx said the 14 children on board got out of the bus through the rear emergency exit and were standing outside by the time police arrived a few minutes later. Emergency exit hatches on the roof of the bus also were open, he said. Police spokeswoman Sherri Llewellyln said rescue workers had to pull Delph from the wreckage.
As Delph was flown to the Baltimore trauma center, the students, ages 5 to 15, were treated at Howard County General Hospital and released. Five had complained of minor back and neck injuries, he said.
About two hours after the accident, several children at the hospital clutched cream-colored teddy bears given to them by nurses.
"The children were all scared . . . but everybody's fine now," said Renee Dubois of Columbia, who came to pick up her sons, 6-year-old Murphy and 5-year-old John.
Dubois said she had driven to the hospital "scared out of my mind." But her boys had only "little bumps somewhere," she said, parting Murphy's red-brown hair to show a bruise on his forehead.
Hailey Hamel, 10, of Elkridge said the first few moments of the crash were frightening. She hit the seat in front of her and slammed into other students, she said.
"Me and my friends were like, 'Oh my God,' " said Hailey, who had to get several stitches on a cut near her right eye.
Her brother, 15-year-old Matt, said several adults -- school employees as well as passing motorists -- reached in to help them out of the bus.
"Everybody just immediately started helping us," said Matt, who called his mother on his cell phone to tell her that he and his sister were not seriously injured. "Everybody was eager to help."
Glenelg Country School is a secular school with students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. Ryland Chapman, the school headmaster, said that he rode to the hospital with several students and that they were calm.
"Kids are very resilient," he said. "They were all sent home, thank the Lord."
The accident occurred in the 1200 block of Folly Quarter Road, about a half-mile from the school. Police are investigating the accident, but Proulx said he did not believe speed was a factor. No other vehicles were involved.
Skid marks from the bus stretched for several feet along Folly Quarter, a hilly, narrow one-lane road in a rural but quickly developing area of Howard. Twisted branches and bits of shrubbery stuck out from the smashed grill of the school bus.
Delph works for Ashwell Bus Service in Woodbine. Owner Judy Ashwell did not return phone calls seeking comment yesterday.
Chapman said the school has worked with the bus company for more than five years and did not have plans to alter its contract. He said the crash is the first in his memory.
"We've had good service, and they've had safe drivers," he said.