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Distracted driver

Disciplinary action pending after thrown batteries cause bus crash

Firefighters examine injured students while police conduct the crash investigation.

News Staff Writer

Several Escambia County Middle School students suffered minor injuries, and at least one faces disciplinary action after a pack of batteries was thrown into the front of a county school bus Monday (April 17), distracting the driver and causing a minor crash.
The mishap occurred around 3:20 p.m., when the distracted bus driver ran off Forest Avenue and hit a culvert, causing damage to the vehicle that forced it to veer from one side of the street to the other before coming to rest in a shallow ditch.
Billy Mills, director of transportation for Escambia County Schools, pointed out that the minor crash could have been avoided if not for student misbehavior.
“This is why we have to make our students behave,” Mills said. “They have to be more disciplined so they won’t distract the driver so he or she can do their main job, transport our students safely to and from school. This could have been a lot worse if it had not been in a low-traffic, low-speed area.”
The transportation director said there were 16 ECMS students on the bus at the time. The guilty students have been identified and face administrative discipline.
“The children who were throwing the batteries have been identified,” he said. “I will fill out a conduct report and they will face discipline, but that will be handled administratively.”
Atmore police and fire reports show that five children complained of minor injuries, mainly for bumps and bruises to the leg, shoulder or head areas. Three were taken in private vehicles to Atmore Community Hospital for precautionary examinations after their parents arrived at the scene.
The bus driver and a student were retrieving the batteries when the accident occurred.
Reports show the bus hit a culvert, damaging the rear axle and flattening a front tire. The mechanical damage caused the bus to run into and out of one ditch, cross the road and come to a stop in the opposite ditch. Mills said the damage turned out to be less extensive than it first appeared.
“We had some damage to the axle — a bolt broke — but we were fortunate that the bus wasn’t totaled out,” he said. “Hopefully, it won’t cost much to fix it, but it sure looked different sitting in that ditch.”
He pointed out that, although Monday’s crash was minor, the incident shows how important it is for students to not distract their bus driver.
“We have to make them behave on the bus,” he repeated. “It could have been a whole lot worse. What if it had been in a higher-speed area? What if the bus had hit an oak tree or another vehicle head-on?”