Truck that hit school bus followed too closely

Published 11:06 am Friday, March 17, 2017

As reported online (, a truck ran into the back of a Southampton County Public School Bus on Route 58W near Medicine Springs Road mid-afternoon Wednesday. The truck driver had to be airlifted to a trauma center. The bus driver and seven students were taken to Southampton Memorial Hospital for evaluation and treatment of any minor injuries, and were later released.

According to Maj. Gene Drewery, spokesman for the Southampton County Sheriff’s Office, the cause for the accident is that the truck was following too close to the bus. He had no update on the condition of that driver or passenger.


Meanwhile, Southampton County Public Schools Director of Transportation Ricky Blunt reported that bus driver Angela Matthews is “doing OK. She’s at home. She’s very sore and a little nervous.”

He said that Matthews, who has been a driver for seven years, told him that at the bus stop she looked in the rearview mirror, saw the truck coming and realized it wasn’t going to stop.

Blunt said, “She screamed to the students, ‘Everyone hold on!’”

“There was nothing she could really do,” he added.

School bus drivers perform evacuation drills twice a year and, based on her training, Matthews’ natural reaction then was to make sure the students were OK and get them safely off the bus and away from the scene.

“She did a remarkable job for being in shock,” said Blunt. “That training really paid off.”

Responding to the scene were three rescue units and one fire unit from Courtland; one rescue unit from Capron; and a rescue and fire unit each from Boykins, said Drewery.

“An incident such as this is trained for as a mass casualty incident. In basic firefighting and EMS there is an overview of such incidents,” he said. “There are specialty classes in both disciplines and emergency management. These classes are not mandatory. I know that the training has been offered in the area and many of the squads have participated. In fire training there are specific extrication classes involving school buses.”

In addition to their own drills, school bus drivers get a two-hour in-service training session twice annually, Blunt added. An insurance company representative will come to show them a video and talk about different scenarios and how to react. Further, local law enforcement will speak to the drivers. The most recent session was about a month ago and Southampton Deputy Keith Rose was the speaker. Last fall, Virginia State Trooper Greg Jackson was the guest.

Looking back — or ahead, rather — Blunt said the accident will become “a teachable moment.”

In his 11 years with the school division, he’s not experienced anything like what happened the other day, but knows there were some incidents prior to his arrival.

“There have been some near misses since, which is why I changed the activity runs,” he said.

Those close calls were attributed by him to drivers who weren’t paying attention or talking on their cell phones.

Activity runs are when buses are used to transport students to events such as football games. For the past few months, drivers have been taking students to different drop-off points completely off the main roads such as Route 58.

“I’m studying the same situation for regular routing,” Blunt said, adding that he’s talking to the Virginia Department of Transportation about adding more bus stop signs.

Dr. Gwendolyn Shannon, superintendent, confirmed that Matthews was resting at home. Based on what was learned, she’s in agreement with Blunt’s evaluation that Matthews was “making a regular stop. There was nothing she could have done differently.”

Counselors were available for students at Southampton Middle School on Thursday. The nurses reevaluated the students to ensure all still felt OK and no one had any complaints.


Just as school bus drivers have their specific training, the school division administrators and principals also have protocols to follow. A crisis response manual is at every school.

Shannon said that on arrival at the high school, which was designated as a central location, she “immediately pulled the manual and we followed it pretty much to the letter.”

In the chapter covering bus accidents, the drivers are to call the bus garage/director of auxiliary services, who will notify the building principal. After which, the principal or designated official will coordinate appropriate responses. The interventions include:

At the scene

• Provide emotional support

• Be available and attend to the injured, as directed by emergency medical personnel

• Be available and attend to the uninjured and account for all.

At the school

• Provide emotional support and coordination.

• Attend to the effected students

• Provide information to the faculty

• Call Crisis Response Team and community agency resources for assistance, as needed.

• Contact parents of students involved, as needed.

At the hospital

• Provide emotional support for the injured and their families.


• Send letters to parents as needed.

• Assess the response and arrange follow-up with the Crisis Response Team.

The school division’s policy online manual also outlines school bus scheduling, routing and safety. For example, under Index EEAC: “All accidents, regardless of the amount of damage involved, must be reported to the transportation supervisor. Crashes involving school buses resulting in property damage of $1,500 or more or personal injury will be reported to the Virginia Department of Education at least once per month. The superintendent or designee will notify the Virginia Department of Education of any school bus crash involving serious injuries, requiring professional medical treatment, or death within the next working day after the crash.”

“I think they did an outstanding job,” the superintendent said about all who were involved in the response.

“We are in the process of conducting an internal investigation and an After Action Review to see if anything needs to be tweaked should this happen again,” she said.