Buses collide on field trip

A firefighter applies absorbent material at the site of a bus crash near the High Knob entrance off John Marshall Highway east of Front Royal on Monday. Rachel Mahoney/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Students from E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School were sent to the hospital Monday afternoon after two charter buses crashed on John Marshall Highway.

Virginia State Police trooper Baker Williams said two Richards Bus Lines buses were headed westbound when the incident occurred at about 3:40 p.m. He said Warren County Sheriff’s Office and Fire and Rescue squads were the first to respond to the crash.

Williams said a car turning left onto High Knob Road caused vehicles behind it to slow down and stop. He said the first bus stopped, but the second bus struck the first after it drove over a hill. He said the first bus collided with another vehicle in front of it.

“This bus was pretty much following too close and ran into the back of (the other) bus,” he said.

Warren County Fire Chief Richard E. Mabie wrote in a Monday evening news release that occupants of the first bus self evacuated, but those on the second bus – with damage to the front end – had to use the vehicle’s emergency evacuation windows. A total of 95 students, teachers and chaperones were on the two buses.

A charter bus is shown after crashing into the rear of another bus Monday. Both buses were returning E. Wilson Morrison students from a field trip to Washington, D.C. Rachel Mahoney/Daily

Five ambulances and two engines transported nine students and seven adults from the incident to the hospital with what appeared to be minor injuries, according to Mabie’s release. Seven more patients checked into the ER by 8 p.m. Monday, and Mabie stated that the total number of patients was expected to increase.

Williams said John Marshall Highway was shut down before crews cleaned up the scene, with cars directed to turn around. High Knob Road was also blocked off. Clean up crews and trucks from Brian Omps Towing & Repair arrived at the scene at about 5:20 p.m.

“This sort of happens all the time here, it’s just a bad intersection,” he said.

E. Wilson Morrison Principal Lori Layman said that around 95 people were returning from a fourth grade field trip at the American History Museum in D.C. when the incident occurred – less than four miles away from the school.

Warren County Public Schools Superintendent Greg Drescher said Warren schools use Richards Bus Lines and their drivers among other charter bus companies for field trips. He also acknowledged that the intersection is a “notorious bad spot.”

“We’ll let the state police do the investigation of what actually happened in the accident,” he said. “We’ll follow up with the company just to make sure we understand what they think their issue was and hear from them as to any action that they take. I have no doubts that they’ll take it seriously.”

Drescher also said Monday evening that given what he knew of the incident, he had no plans to discontinue service with the company.

He said parents of students on the field trip were notified via email, text message or phone call about the incident. He said all parents of those transported to the hospital received calls. Warren County Public Schools buses transported the remainder of those on the trip back to the school, where parents then picked them up.

Deputies told Drescher that anyone feeling possible delayed side effects from the incident should visit a hospital for a check-up.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com