PARAGOULD, AR - Serious injuries were fortunately avoided this morning when a Greene County Tech School District bus left Highway 168 out of control near Fontaine.
Seven students were taken to Paragould or Jonesboro hospitals after the accident, which happened just before 7 a.m.
Ambulances and rescue teams were on the scene working quickly to safely off the bus. "It was bumpy," 2nd grader Kassidy Bolick said of the accident.
One student who was trapped underneath a seat had to be extracated from the bus. "We grabbed our equipment and just started working," said Curtis Davenport of the Greene County Rescue Squad. "The girl was trapped and we had to take out the seat."
The bus's driver, 55-year-old Catherine George, was not injured, and was the only person on the bus wearing a seat belt. Most Arkansas school buses are not equipped with safety belts for anyone other than the driver, including the bus in question.
The accident occured as the bus attempted to cross a bridge. "It's a narrow bridge, but how the bus went over is not known," said Sgt. Benny Cox of the Arkansas State Police. Authorities say rain was not a factor in the accident.
The driver told State Police that she took her eyes off the road for a moment to look into the vehicle's rear-view mirror, and that's when the accident occured. State Police plan to look at video from the bus's surveillance camera to hopefully get a better idea of what happened.
Six of the injured students were taken to Arkansas Methodist Medical Center in Paragould, and the student who had to be extracated was taken to St. Bernard's Medical Center in Jonesboro. The six passengers taken to Paragould have all been released.