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Father of crash victim talks about daughter’s serious injuries

Jennifer Sprouse • Sep 21, 2012 at 10:00 PM

The bond between a father and a daughter can be very special.

So, when Charlie Bunton’s daughter, Cheyenne, who was one of the victims from the David Crockett High School bus crash Thursday afternoon, couldn’t sleep in the hospital that night, neither could he.

Cheyenne was flown into Niswonger Children’s Hospital at Johnson City Medical Center Thursday with a serious head abrasion and fractures in her vertebrae. Family members, including a brother living six hours away in Jacksonville, N.C., rushed to the hospital to be with her.

Bunton said, as a father, the whole experience has been really hard. “She’s more coherent. She’s ... more alert, but she’s just getting where she can’t hardly move much at all right now,” he said. “She’s doing a lot better. They found out she had two more fractures in her vertebrae than what they first assumed and she’s not slept. She’s just absolutely terrified to go to sleep.”

Bunton said Cheyenne, who talks very little about the crash, said she doesn’t remember a lot about when the bus tumbled.

“She’s just mentioned how she knew she hit the window and she doesn’t really remember anything else that she hit,” he said. “She doesn’t want to talk about the wreck. Anytime she hears anybody talk about it, she goes to cry. She was cut severely (on her scalp) and they had to staple it back together and then a few stitches. They said it may scar, but she may not get to ... raise her eyebrow because they didn’t have time to work on the nerve. They just had to sew her up because she was losing so much blood.”

According to Bunton, his daughter, a 16-year-old David Crockett junior, has quite the wait until her scalp and the rest of her injuries heal completely.

“They said it’d probably be two weeks before they could even take the staples out,” he said. “On her neck alone they said at one point it could be anywhere from 12 to 16 weeks and it just really depends on how well she progresses. They (were) talking about doing some physical therapy and I’ve asked them maybe to do some counseling. Maybe see if that would help her deal with (the crash), too.”

Bunton described his daughter as a “girly girl” and a “tomboy” and said emotionally she’s tried to remain in good spirits.

“Mainly, we’ve been talking about the ball game (David Crockett homecoming game on Friday night),” Bunton said. “She was supposed to be there and she’s not going to get to go, of course, but she asked us to go in place of her and she wants me to take pictures of all the homecoming court. It seems like when you talk about that, and we went and checked on other kids for her, that makes her feel better.”

The crash is still under investigation and Bunton said he has a few questions of his own that he’s anxious to find out, with one being how fast the bus was traveling before it flipped.

“If it was going fast, why?” he said. “I know the road and the road is like a 35 mph speed limit and it’s narrow. We trust (the bus drivers) to get our kids home safe and then something like this happens. Something needs to be done. Test the drivers more often, more training, just anything that can help be more safety cautious. The main thing is the safety of these kids.”

Bunton said the outpouring show of support from Cheyenne’s classmates, friends and the community has been a huge help for his family, and he urges people to wait until the facts are on the table before making assumptions about the crash.

“Right now, just don’t pass judgment until we know the whole truth about what happened. They just need to support the kids, pray for the kids and show their support in any way they can. Help each other,” Bunton said.

Dr. Tyler Putnam and Dr. Robert Harris, both JCMC traumatologists who worked the crash Thursday, said the injured students and the bus driver are all in stable condition.

“Everyone’s stable. One of the patients still has some procedures that need to be done, but everyone else is very stable and I think we’ll ... have good recoveries,” Putnam said. “We ... had eight orthopedic physicians and other providers down in the emergency department helping us evaluate all the musculoskeletal injuries. The majority of the injuries were musculoskeletal.”

Harris, an orthopedic surgeon, said of the orthopedic procedures needed for those injuries, almost all have been completed.

“Those have been repaired surgically. There’s one individual that has additional surgery today, but they should recover very quickly and be discharged in the next day or two,” he said.

While it had been close to 10 years since the last Code Delta was issued at the medical center, Putnam said the staff and help from the surrounding communities really allowed those treating patients to get in quickly and start treatment in a timely manner.

“There was a great community effort yesterday,” he said. “All the patients got here, I think in a very timely manner and we knew what was coming, so that helps tremendously. We knew what patients’ injuries were or how they’d been triaged before they got here, which helps us a lot. We have a pediatric emergency department and an adult emergency department and actually, the patients were ... separated between the two. It went very smoothly.”

Some of the “walking wounded” students who were on the bus but were not transported to the hospital after the crash, did show up for evaluation at JCMC, but Putnam said the majority of those students were released to go home.

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