One child was killed and 14 other elementary school children injured Monday when their school bus collided head-on with a garbage truck at a busy intersection. Horrified bystanders helped remove students from the wreckage.
The drivers of the bus and truck were hospitalized in critical condition, as was one of the children, said Chief Carol Sauliner of the Arlington County Fire Department. The remaining children, ranging from kindergartners to fifth graders, received minor injuries and were taken to area hospitals. Twelve were treated and released.
Arlington County Police spokesman Matt Martin said the school bus apparently was trying to make a left turn when it collided with the truck at 8:40 a.m. at the intersection of two major thoroughfares in this Washington, D.C. suburb.
Bystanders and passengers on a Metrobus that came upon the scene helped pull children out of the bus.
“A lot of them were bleeding,” said Metrobus passenger Willena Roney, 43, from Arlington, Va. “They were scared and upset.”
Fire Chief Jim Schwartz said there was difficulty removing some of the victims from the bus, which had its front end crushed, and that “a number of citizens” helped out. Firefighters worked more than half an hour to extricate the truck driver, who was pinned in his vehicle.
Arlington school buses are equipped with seat belts for drivers, but not for students. The children were on their way to Hoffman-Boston Elementary School. Arlington County schools spokeswoman Linda Erdos said counselors were dispatched to the school and the hospitals to work with students and families.
Parents, some in tears, rushed to the school after hearing reports of the accident and were met by police, school personnel and “much confusion,” said Missy Jones, who went there to check on her second-grader, who was not involved in the accident.
“Our hearts go out to the parents of the children” in the accident, said Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Robert Smith. He said the school bus driver, whom he did not identify, had an “unblemished” record during her 11 years with the school system.
Fatal accidents involving school buses and vans are relatively rare. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 79 passengers and 40 drivers were killed since 1993, an average of about 11 people per year.
Police and fire officials refused to speculate on which, if either, of the drivers were at fault in the accident. They said they were working with the National Transportation Safety Board to reconstruct the events.