ANTIOCH, Ill. (STMW) — Two Antioch Upper Grade School school buses fully loaded with children to take home were involved in a collision with each other Tuesday. Police and rescue were never called, and now the north suburban school admits it could have handled the situation better, the Lake County News-Sun is reporting.
“We called them later. That’s when we deviated from our procedures. There were communication issues at the time and police were not called to the scene,” said Paul Starck-King, chief financial officer for Antioch School District 34. “We could have handled it better,” he said.
“Yes, they could have handled it better,” said Antioch Fire Chief John Nixon. “Typically when there are accidents, they call an ambulance crew to check the kids,” he said.
“We strongly encourage whenever there is a property damage accident that paramedics be sent to the scene just for a check-up,” he said. Antioch Upper Grade School Principal Stacy Graff sent an email late Wednesday to parents.
“There was some discrepancy as to the reports of student injuries. We do know now that some students were taken to get medical treatment by their parents later in the day. If your child received or is in need of medical attention, please seek out treatment and know that medical insurance claim forms will be available at AUGS, transportation, and district office,” she wrote.
“Most of you were informed of this information via e-mail. In retrospect, a voice mail or personal phone calls should have been made and more information should have been communicated to you at that time. For this we apologize,” she said. “While our post-accident actions were in compliance with state law, we are reviewing whether our internal procedures and practices were followed,” she wrote.
Starck-King said state law requires a police report be sent to the state within 10 days. In addition, post-accident procedure requires the driver submit to drug and alcohol testing within two hours of the accident and that was done.
He said that at the time of the accident the school bus drivers asked the children if there was anyone hurt and they reported to the administrator at the scene, the assistant to the director of transportation, because the director was unavailable, that the kids said they were alright.
“There were communication issues regarding how they felt, there were many people talking,” Starck-King said. One bus driver said one student did complain of an injury, but as they went back to the scene, “then the student was saying ‘No, I’m fine,’” he said, so the bus driver continued taking students home.
Both buses were eastbound on Route 173 around 3 p.m. and both were turning right to go southbound on Route 83. The first bus driver started to make the turn and then stopped abruptly. The second bus driver had begun turning as well and was looking in the direction of oncoming traffic, “but didn’t notice soon enough the other bus had stopped,” he said.
The first bus had a dented rear bumper and the second bus had a damaged front bumper and lost all its radiator fluid. It had to be towed from the scene. Another bus was dispatched to load the students from the disabled bus and take them home. Once the towed bus was taken back to the bus barn, police were called and the officer that arrived told them that someone had already called it in, but the scene was cleared when police arrived, he said.
The district has 85 buses that make two trips a day, 174 days a year, and they only have had two or three accidents a year, but they usually involve a private vehicle and police are called. Starck-King said this was different in that it was two school-owned buses.
“They wanted to insure the safety of the kids, but didn’t feel it required” a call to police and rescue, he said.
Fire Chief Nixon said that asking a busload of kids if everyone is alright is not effective because some students could be shy and some don’t realize right away that they are hurt because of all the jostling from the accident and the excitement that follows.
“When a child is obviously injured we have to transport them. A child under 18 cannot refuse care,” he said, explaining that the names of children transported are given to the school officials at the scene of the accident and they are responsible for notifying the parents.
“A lot of time they don’t realize they are injured,” he said. “We could have done a little more thorough job if they had called us,” he said.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)