Band bus, truck crash; 8 injured

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 18, 2004

Students from the Warren Central bus are attended to by emergency personnel Friday following a wreck on I-20 near Edwards. (Jon GiffinThe Vicksburg Post)

[10/16/04]Six members of Warren Central High School’s Big Blue marching band were sent to the hospital Friday night after the bus in which they were riding was rear-ended on Interstate 20 as they headed to a football game in Jackson.

The bus was hit by a truck carrying Big Blue band equipment and driven by a parent volunteer who, along with his wife, was taken to a Jackson hospital.

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The truck passenger, Michelle Sibley, 43, 519 Kavanaugh Drive, remained at Mississippi Baptist Memorial Hospital in Jackson. Her husband, Dwight Sibley, 43, same address, and the six students were treated and released.

The wreck, which was in Hinds County near the Flora and Edwards exit, was reported at 5:10.

“Apparently, there was a wreck about a half-mile up the road and traffic was stopped for that,” said Trooper J.F. “Rusty” Clark with the Mississippi Highway Patrol, whose office is investigating the crash. “The bus popped up this hill and stopped for the traffic. There was a car between the bus and the truck, and the car swerved onto the shoulder to miss the bus. This truck just didn’t see in time to stop.”

No information about the initial wreck was available.

Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace identified the students, all of whom were treated at River Region Medical Center, as:

Chelsea Evans, 15, 3595 Mount Alban Road;

Ivan Reihsmann, 16, 128 Brookwood Drive;

Jamica Reynolds, 14, 120 Pemberton St.;

Curtis Winters, 14, 6295 Bovina Cutoff Road;

Orlando Jones, 14, 85 Bellaire Drive;

Artines Pratt, 16, 3490 N. Washington St.

The caravan included seven buses carrying about 20 students each, equipment vehicles, two Warren County Sheriff’s Department patrol escorts and parents in private vehicles. The caravan was stopped for about two hours, and east- and westbound traffic was slowed for about the same time.

Parents, emergency and law enforcement officials, Vicksburg Warren School District officials and onlookers stood at the scene.

“We were on our way to the ballgame, and my daughter had a cell phone with her and she called and said, I’m OK,'” said parent Darlene Birdsong. Her daughter, Beth Birdsong, 13 and an eighth-grader, is a Band Aide, which is a group of students who help set up props and equipment before and after performances.

VWSD transportation director David Keen said parents, assistant band directors and school district officials kept students together and calm until emergency officials arrived.

“We regret the incident ever happened, but we are thankful that the injuries don’t appear to be life-threatening,” Keen said. “We hope those who were injured have a speedy recovery.”

Keen said the damage to the bus, which was carrying 16 students and the driver, was minimal, but a replacement bus was brought to the scene to take the uninjured to the game.

The 2004 bus is one of 170 buses owned by the district with 9,000 students. The bus was purchased last year for about $57,000.

Superintendent James Price said district officials will study the highway patrol’s reports Monday.

“Anytime we put our students out on buses on roads, streets or highways, we’re at risk,” he said. “No matter how many hours we spend in safety training, no matter how much money we put into the buses and safety equipment, we’re all subject to being involved in a traffic accident. The best we can do is to try to protect from, plan for and prevent this type of event.

“I’m proud of not just our personnel, but everyone. When students are involved, across the board, the community practically stops. Everyone comes together and goes and sees about our children, and that makes me thankful.”

Big Blue, which has about 170 members, made it to the game just after halftime, and as they marched into the stadium where the Vikings were playing the Murrah Mustangs, they were greeted with a “Go, Big Blue” cheer from WC cheerleaders.

The Vikings won 33-12.