JCPS: Bus driver ‘responded appropriately’ in I-64 hydroplane crash
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The school bus driver at the wheel during the crash Tuesday morning on I-64 “responded appropriately,” according to Jefferson County Public Schools Chief Operations Officer Chris Perkins.
The bus reportedly hydroplaned during heavy rain at 7:11 a.m. on I-64 West around mile marker 11.8, near the Watterson Expressway. The bus drove off the roadway, turning onto its side and skidding into the brush.
Perkins said no additional or updated training would happen based on this particular crash.
“Our bus drivers have to earn and maintain their CDL, and that’s a pretty intensive and comprehensive process, and then they have to receive updated training each year as well,” Perkins said. “This was a 17-year veteran driver, very efficient and effective in her job.”
Furthermore, Perkins said there are “some factors we couldn’t control” about Tuesday’s crash. Radar indicated a heavy rain system in the exact area of the crash at the time the bus reportedly hydroplaned.
The bus driver was not hurt in the crash, reportedly refusing medical attention. All 21 students on board the bus did go to the hospital, though some visits were precautionary and not for any obvious injuries.
JCPS Communications Director Carolyn Callahan said the district knew of one case of a broken bone, but otherwise, some students displayed minor injuries such as cuts and bruises.
Louisville Fire and EMS were on the scene quickly to treat and care for students, but before those first responders could arrive at the scene, more than a dozen witnesses stopped to help.
Mike Sherman saw the crash happen.
“When it hit, I’m thinking, oh my God, I can’t believe this is happening in front of me,” Sherman said.
Sherman owns Vendome Copper & Brass Works in Louisville and was on his way into work. He said he didn’t think twice before pulling over to help.
He and another driver opened the back door to the bus, and “I was just kind of grabbing kids and pulling them out,” Sherman said.
Randy Frantz is a former JCPS transportation director, and was shocked to see one of his former buses on its side. He also immediately stopped to help.
He said he knew he was there for a reason.
“God put me at that accident this morning; there is no other way to say it,” Frantz said.
Frantz said he usually takes a different route to work in the morning. On this day, the same rain that likely caused the crash is also the reason Frantz came across the scene.
“It was raining a little bit this morning, I was sleeping well,” Frantz said. “I actually hit snooze twice.”
Corrie Harris is another driver who came upon the scene.
“You could hear the kids in there, screaming, crying,” Harris said.
Harris just so happens to be a doctor, a pediatrician at that, and she couldn’t help but assess the children’s conditions as she saw them.
“A lot of kids were bleeding, but they were all conscious,” Harris said.
The students had been on their way to Noe Middle and duPont Manual High schools.
“It didn’t feel real,” Kennedy Thompson, a 6th grade JCPS student who was on the bus said. “I was like, ‘Oh, this is probably just my imagination, I’m probably just asleep,’ but no, it was real.”
Kennedy would have been one of the youngest on board the waking nightmare, yet she comforted her classmates.
“[I was] telling them you’re okay, everybody’s fine, nobody’s seriously injured,” Kennedy said.
JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said he is grateful for exactly that - the fact that no one was seriously injured in the crash. He said he also appreciates the witnesses like Sherman, Frantz and Harris who halted their commutes to help.
“These are community heroes,” Pollio said. “These are people stepped up for our kids, and I’m so thankful for them.”
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