Emergency personnel transport an injured student Thursday. Ned Jilton II photo.
UPDATE: 5:35 p.m.
BLOOMINGDALE — A Ketron Elementary student is alleged to have inadvertently sent 21 schoolmates to the hospital on Thursday by pulling an emergency window latch and activating an alarm that distracted a bus driver, triggering a two-bus crash.
Despite the number of victims transported by ambulance, no serious injuries were anticipated. None of the students wore seat belts, as they aren’t provided on the vehicles or required by state law.
The crash occurred at approximately 3:20 p.m. in the 3000 block of Bloomingdale Road. Assistant Director of Sullivan County Schools Gene Johnson reports all of the students were being transported from Ketron Elementary, less than a quarter-mile from the site of the crash.
The two buses involved were following each other on Bloomingdale Road. Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Leslie Earhart says a student on the second bus pulled an emergency latch to open a window, which automatically triggers an alarm.
The driver reportedly looked back to see what the emergency might be, at which point that bus struck the lead bus, which had stopped to let children exit.
Although the crash and injuries were minor, ambulances from several jurisdictions scrambled to the scene. Johnson said five staff members of Ketron Elementary were working phones to personally alert parents of children who were aboard the buses. Two reserve buses were brought in to hold the uninjured students.
Parents who were unable to respond to the scene would have their children taken home by those vehicles.
“I feel real good about our emergency response,” said Johnson. “Everybody I’ve seen has acted highly professional.”
Sullivan County Director of Schools Jubal Yennie and Holston Valley officials said 14 students were sent to Holston Valley Medical Center. The remaining seven children who were injured received care at Indian Path Medical Center.
Rebecca Morin, Holston Valley’s associate vice president for critical care, emergency department and intensive care, said the students sent to Holston Valley were ages 8 to 12.
Morin says the hospital went into “Code Delta” to “prepare for everything and anything,” but no injuries were life-threatening or required surgery. The minor injuries reportedly included “aches and pains” in the “neck and back.”
“I’ve seen all of them. They are all happy, a little scared,” Morin said.
All of Holston Valley’s patients from the incident were expected to be released by Thursday evening.
Staff writer Rick Wagner contributed to this story.
Police and emergency personnel are in the process of transporting several children for treatment of injuries following a Thursday afternoon crash involving a pair of buses on Bloomingdale Road.
The incident occurred in front of Kingsley Elementary School, with approximately 70 students aboard the vehicles.
Sullivan County police say more than a dozen students are complaining of injuries. The number who are being transported was not immediately clear.
Check back with timesnews.net for additional details as they become available.