Police investigating cause of deadly school bus crash in Houston County
WARNER ROBINS, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – It’s heartbreaking to imagine a six year-old having his or her entire life ahead of them, riding the bus home from school as they would any other day, only to have it all cut short so suddenly. But that’s exactly what happened Monday evening.
“It’s a very heart-wrenching situation out there,” said Warner Robins Police Department’s Chief John Wagner.
“Yesterday at 4:11 in the afternoon officers were dispatched to Forrest Park Drive, which is between North Pleasant Hill Road and McArthur Blvd, in reference to a serious injury accident,” Wagner told 41NBC.
The bus carrying around 39 children from Westview and Pearl Stephens Elementary was traveling down Forest Park Drive on a steep curve when police say it tipped over and landed on its side.
“A child was ejected from the vehicle and that child was critically injured and transported to Navicent in Macon,” said Wagner.
Suzanne Jiminez is a mother herself. “It’s hard to lose a child at any age but six? She’s still a baby,” she said.
She’s also a resident in the neighborhood who says she avoids taking Forest Park Drive. “It’s really steep and (there’s) a lot of curves and people going through too fast,” she explained.
Chief Wagner says this is the bus’s normal daily route so they’re not exactly sure what could’ve caused it to overturn.
“My understanding is that this is a regular route for the bus every day, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to negotiate that curve or come through that way–not by any means,” he continued.
But the accident hit close to home for residents and first responders.
“All those officers and first responders out there, many of them have children, and to see that happen to any child–it’s very heartbreaking to them and they carry that with them,” said Wagner.
Wagner says the school district has been very cooperative with the investigation. Houston County Schools did release a statement from the superintendent about the accident and the victims.
The student killed was a first grader from Parkwood Elementary School and the bus driver, Shalita Harris, had only been employed with the district since October of 2017.
Superintendent Dr. Mark Scott’s full statement reads as follows:
It is with the deepest sorrow that we confirm the death of one of our Parkwood Elementary students. Our thoughts and prayers are with this family during this sad and difficult time. We also offer condolences to our Parkwood students and staff members, especially the child’s classmates and teachers. Our district’s crisis team joined school counselors today, to talk with any children who have questions or just want to talk. School psychologists and counselors are available to help children and staff deal with their grief.
Our priority is first and foremost with this family, as well as all of the children who were involved in the bus accident. The accident is still under investigation, and at this time, we have no other details to share.
I would like to thank the Warner Robins Police and Houston County Sheriff’s officers who responded to the scene, along with other first responders. They were professional and caring of our young children and we greatly appreciate all that they did to help the students. Many thanks, also, to the hospital staff who took care of the children who went to the hospital. We ask our community to continue to lift up and support our school families affected by this tragedy.