Harrison man dies after hitting Green Forest bus

Tuesday, January 26, 2021
The burned-out remains of a car that crashed into a Green Forest school bus on Tuesday, Jan. 19, sit on a flatbed truck in a wrecker yard in Berryville.
David Bell / Carroll County News

A Harrison man was killed Tuesday, Jan. 19, when his car crashed into the rear of a school bus near Green Forest.

According to a report from the Arkansas State Police, which conducted the accident investigation, Christopher Anderson, 24, was traveling west on U.S. 62 when his vehicle, a 2019 Hyundai coupe, struck a Green Forest School District bus loaded with students on their way to school.

The wreck happened at approximately 7:29 a.m. on a stretch of four-lane road about three miles east of Green Forest.

Carroll County Sheriff Jim Ross said he was driving to work when he heard calls go out about the accident.

“When I got there, I saw a small car had slammed into the rear of the bus,” Ross said. “A witness said the bus had been stopped.”

After the collision, Anderson’s vehicle began to burn, and not long after, so did the bus. Both vehicles were quickly engulfed in flames.

Green Forest School District superintendent Dr. Matt Summers praised the efforts of the bus driver, who got all 16 students off the bus before the fire spread.

“I can’t say enough good things about our bus driver,” said Summers, who declined to identify the driver. “[The students] were removed from the bus rather quickly. And at that point, it was not on fire. It was smoldering and beginning to. But from what I’m told, approximately three to five minutes after impact is when the fire began.”

Summers said the driver was assisted with the young students by a Green Forest teacher, who was traveling to work along the same road. After the children were off the bus, nearby residents offered them a place to get inside out of the cold and to shield the students — some of whom were very young — from what was happening outside.

“The bus driver and one of our teachers — [who] was actually three cars behind traveling to work — escorted the kids into the house, and they were just the most cordial people,” Summers said. “They put cartoons on the TV for the little ones to watch and we did all of our health assessments, information, contacting parents, everything that we needed to do inside the house, so the students were not seeing a lot of the emergency vehicles and those type things.”

The students and the bus driver were all evaluated by EMS at the scene, and six students were transported to Mercy Hospital in Berryville for treatment. The remaining students were transported to the school, where they were re-evaluated by the school nurse, provided with counselors, and, in some cases, breakfast, while they waited for parents to come pick them up.

“We can’t tip our hat enough and say thank you enough to that family,” Summers said. “I have met with the mother at that household and thanked her personally, but I’m sure we’ll be sending a card and many, many other things because I can’t say enough good things about that family and how they helped our kids.”

Green Forest Police Chief John Bailey, who responded to the scene Tuesday along with some of his officers, said the Green Forest Fire Department extinguished the blaze fairly quickly and that the road was fully reopened after about an hour.

“I can’t be more appreciative of the bus driver and the actions that she took,” Bailey said. “She got the kids off safely and got them into that warm house.”

Bailey added that a witness to the collision stated that the bus was stopped to pick up a student — with its lights on — and that Anderson didn’t appear to make any effort to stop before the collision.

“They were, in fact, loading children right there when the collision happened,” Bailey said. “There was one child that had just just stepped up into the bus when the collision occurred.”

The accident marked the 24th fatal accident of the year in Arkansas, with 26 people killed so far in 2021.

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