Twenty students of a Woodbridge high school suffered minor injuries early yesterday morning when the school bus they were riding home from a track meet ran off Interstate 95 near Stafford and rolled over.
Twenty-one others on the bus were unhurt.
"It was one of the most horrible things I've ever seen -- to see the kids all flopping around and screaming," said Tom Parisi, assistant boys' track coach from Gar-Field High School who had accompanied the students on the bus. "We were being tossed around just like we were nothing."
Bus driver Jeanene Cash was suspended without pay, pending an investigation of the incident, according to James Bettis, director of transportation for the Prince William County public schools. Bettis said police and school district officials were probing the possibility that Cash had fallen asleep at the wheel when the acident occured at 4:15 a.m. about 40 miles south of Washington. Cash was charged with reckless driving
Four of the students suffered broken bones, but most of the injuries were no more serious than muscle strains and bruses, said Betty Colletti, assistant principal at the high school. All were treated and released at Potomac Hospital in Prince William County by 9:30 a.m. yesterday.
The bus, carrying 41 students and three coaches was about one hour late leaving Lynchburg at 11:30 p.m. Saturday, after an invitational track meet in which Gar-Field's girls' and boys' track teams had participated. Boys' track coach Michael Campbell said he was sitting in the seat behind the driver when the accident occurred.
"The bus simply ran off the road. She simply lost control of it," Campbell said, adding the Cash was an "outstanding driver" and had done a "super job" at trying to right the vehicle before it rolled over
Campbell said the bus hit an embankment, mounted a small rise, and rolled over several times before coming to rest at the side of the road.
Most of the students who escaped injury were asleep at the time of the accident, Campbell said. He said the students remained calm until the coaches were able to kick out the windshield and help them out of the bus.
"That was the best part of all this: they showed themselves to be young men and young ladies," Campbell said.
Transportation director Bettis said the bus, valued at $12,000 was believed to be totally destroyed.