Note: This story was last updated at 4 p.m. Oct. 22.
ROANE COUNTY—Nine students were injured after a Roane County school bus dropped off the right side of Mahoney Road and rolled onto its right side down a steep embankment on a curvy, country road southwest of Oliver Springs on Wednesday afternoon.
Two middle school students were taken to Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge by ambulance, and a third student, possibly also a middle school student, was transported by a parent, said Gary Aytes, Roane County Schools superintendent. The injuries were not life-threatening, Aytes said. He said one student might have a broken arm, and the others had cuts and abrasions.
Thursday update: The Tennessee Highway Patrol later reported that nine students were taken to Methodist Medical Center in Oak Ridge. Two were transported by ambulance, and the other seven were taken in private vehicles.
The crash was reported in the 600 block of Mahoney Road, just west of Johnson Road, at about 3:50 p.m. Wednesday. There were 22 children on the bus from Oliver Springs High School, Oliver Springs Middle School, and Dyllis Springs Elementary School in Roane County.
Students might have escaped out the back door of the 2009 Thomas bus, Aytes said. Officials reported that most parents picked up their children at the crash site. Roane County Schools sent another bus to transport children but did not need it because all the students had been picked up.
The bus—Bus Number 61, Oliver Springs, Mahoney Road—was headed west and climbing up a small hill coming out of a sharp righthand curve at the time of the crash. It was probably headed to Poplar Creek, Aytes said.
Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Gary Snow investigated the crash, and he said it appears that the right wheels of the 78-passenger bus dropped off the right side of the narrow, curvy, hilly road.
“There’s no shoulder here,” Snow said. There is also no guardrail. Snow said there is not a shoulder to support a guardrail.
The bus rolled down a sloped embankment that appeared to be about four to five feet high at the back end of the bus and eight to 10 feet at the front.
Mahoney Road runs roughly parallel to West Outer Drive, over the ridge on the north side of Oak Ridge. The crash occurred less than two miles west of East Tri County Boulevard, the main road through Oliver Springs.
The county-owned bus was driven by Sam Davis, 66, of Kingston. He’s a county employee and a first-year driver, Aytes said.
Snow said the THP does not expect to issue a citation. Aytes said Davis has to be screened for drugs as any driver would after any accident, but officials don’t suspect any drug use. Snow said the bus will also be inspected.
Officials were relieved that the injuries were fairly minor.
“Anytime you learn that it’s a bus, there’s a sick feeling that comes into your stomach,” said Scott Stout, director of Roane County Office of Emergency Services. “More than likely children were on board.”
Aytes called it the most dreaded call a school director can get. Principals were notified after the crash, and parents were notified immediately.
He said Mahoney Road is, in his opinion, one of the worst roads that school bus drivers have to drive.
“This one is pretty curvy,” Aytes said.
Snow said there have been previous crashes in that curve, particularly when the road is wet.
Besides the THP, other agencies that responded included Oliver Springs Fire Department, Blair Fire Department, Roane County Sheriff’s Office, and Roane County Office of Emergency Services.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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