Bus accident injures Berryville students, teachers
BERRYVILLE -- All 12 passengers aboard a Berryville School bus that overturned Friday morning near Pyatt are recovering from their injuries.
The bus was on its way to a Future Business Leaders of America competition and carried two high school business teachers, the driver, and nine high school students.
All of the students were transported to area hospitals for treatment of mostly minor injuries. Some attended the Friday night football game. One suffered a fractured jaw and was later taken by private vehicle to Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock for follow-up.
The most seriously injured, teacher and FBLA sponsor LeaAnn Johnson, remained hospitalized Monday at a Missouri hospital following surgery for a fractured vertebrae, reported Superintendent Randy Bryd.
Diane Brown, the other teacher and sponsor, was transported to a Mountain Home hospital, where she was treated for a broken collarbone. Bryd said she was now at home.
The driver of the bus, 55-year-old Warren Rainwater, was transported to a Harrison hospital. He was treated for a concussion and a small cut on his head. He was released a few hours later, Byrd said.
The accident occurred at 7:05 a.m., one mile west of Pyatt on U.S. Hwy. 62 as the group was traveling to an FBLA competition at Ozarka College in Melbourne.
According to state police, Rainwater, driving east on Hwy. 62, crossed the center line and the westbound traffic lane before exiting the north side of the roadway. Trooper Matthew Sheley said the bus traveled down a steep embankment before overturning, striking a large tree and coming to a final rest on its side. He said the roadway was blocked or partially blocked for about three hours. Charges are pending, he said.
Byrd said Rainwater has been a bus driver for the district "long term." He declined comment on potential charges, saying state police planned to conduct a thorough investigation that included a commercial vehicle expert who would be looking over the bus to see if there was any kind of mechanical problem.
He said the bus was relatively new, with only 4,000 miles on it, a "cadillac" with extra seat padding and higher seat backs.
"Typically, we buy two new buses each year," he said. "When we get new buses, we call them 'trip buses.' We use the newest and the best on trips for safety sake. By far, it was the safest bus I have."
He said those that were injured, the adults, were all sitting at the front of the bus. The students were all closer to the back, and some were sleeping. The extra padding and higher seat backs, he noted, may have been contributing factors to save them from serious injury.
Although the state police are doing an investigation, Byrd said the school will be looking into the accident also.
"When we get everyone well, we will pull everyone in and get their recollections of what took place," he said.
For the most part, he said, the students were able to remove themselves from the bus and hike up the hillside to the roadway.
Early reports of extracting the injured were not entirely true, Byrd said. There was no "cutting" of the bus to remove them, but they were carried off on backboards.
He said parents were quickly notified of the accident. Many had received calls from the students.
"The kids had cell phones and they were calling, texting and sending pictures," he said.
Asked what kind of notification procedure is in place, Byrd said, "We have a list of emergency numbers in the office when a bus leaves on a trip. As soon as something happens, we contact the parents.
"The parents were notified, and in this case, most of them already knew."
Byrd said he was thankful that it wasn't worse. Many students returned to school Monday, he said.
He noted his appreciation for Mary Talley, his administrative assistant, and Owen Powell, director of transportation. Both stepped up and did a great job, he said.