Twenty-six David Crockett High School students and one Washington County Schools bus driver were taken to area hospitals following a school bus crash near Telford Thursday afternoon.
Bus 88, a substitute bus carrying 63 students, crashed around 3 p.m. near 477 Mount Wesley Road, Telford, injuring 27 of its occupants.
“I’ve been told the bus dropped off the left side of the road and then overcorrected and then dropped off the right side,” Director of Schools Ron Dykes said.
The bus then rolled over, reportedly flipping three times, according to Dykes.
The stretch of county road is very curvy with deep shoulders on either side.
“The road is winding and hilly and very narrow. It’s not one of the best places to drive, period,” Dykes said.
The bus driver, whose name has not been released, is a regular driver with the school system.
“I spoke with the driver. The driver was obviously shaken up. The driver was transported to the hospital with chest pains,” Dykes said.
When emergency personnel arrived on scene, a number of triage stations were set up. A fleet of ambulances and three helicopters were used to transport the injured students to Johnson City Medical Center, Franklin Woods Community Hospital and Holston Valley Hospital.
Uninjured students were either released to parents or transported by bus to Mt. Wesley United Methodist Church.
“Our biggest thing once we got on the scene is to see who was hurt the worst. We triaged them and packaged the ones who were hurt the worst and got them transported,” Tennessee Highway Patrol Sgt. Diane Mays said.
Injuries ranged from minor abrasions and serious head wounds to multiple broken bones, including fractures of the legs, femur and spine, according to JCMC traumatologist Dr. Tyler Putnam.
JCMC received 17 students and the bus driver, while eight students with more minor injuries were treated at Franklin Woods, Putnam said.
Wellmont Health System spokesman Jim Wozniak said one patient was taken to Holston Valley. The extent of that student’s injuries was not clear.
Two of the students were immediately taken into surgery and a number of other injured students were being observed overnight in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit.
By 6 p.m., all 18 patients at JCMC were listed in stable condition.
“Again, all the children are stable. At this point we expect recoveries — full recoveries,” Putnam said.
Johnson City Medical Center underwent a “Code Delta,” which initiated disaster response protocol.
Putnam said a “Code Delta” mobilizes the entire medial center in response to a major event.
“So we have essentially a lab, radiology, emergency department, surgery, pediatrics — all these capabilities respond together and they’re centered in our emergency department,” he said.
All of the patients that were taken to JCMC went through the emergency department, where they were triaged in the hospital’s trauma bays.
“We ended up with 18 patients back there total at one time, so obviously we had a busy emergency department,” Putnam said.
Mountain States Health Alliance spokesman Ed Herbert said the last time the hospital dealt with a “Code Delta” was about 10 years ago when a bus traveling through the area overturned, injuring about 28 people.
Bus 88, which Mays said seats 66 students, was being used as a substitute for Bus 30.
Dykes said he was unsure why a substitute bus was being used.
The investigation is being handled by the THP, with Trooper William Shelton acting as the primary investigator.
Mays said investigators will return to the scene today.
While there isn’t any indication the driver was impaired, school officials have requested a blood test as per system policy.
David Crockett High School will operate on its regular schedule today, with Bus 61 running on the Bus 30 route.
Counselors from the system as well as neighboring systems and Frontier Health will be available.
Staff Writer Becky Campbell contributed to this report.