Thirteen students on their way to school were injured after the bus they were riding in crashed on Icard Ridge Road, near the Bethlehem community in Alexander County, North Carolina, on Monday morning.
The bus was carrying 19 children and was in transit to West Alexander Middle School. A Toyota model car going in the opposite direction as the bus crossed over the centerline. The Toyota proceeded to hit the bus causing the bus driver to lose control of the vehicle. The bus eventually overturned on the side of the road. The North Carolina Highway Patrol said that the children and the bus driver were able to exit the bus via the emergency exit.
According to authorities, the driver of the Toyota was initially only charged with driving while impaired and driving left of center. However, a day later the driver – 56-year-old Kimberly Austin – was arrested and charged with two counts of misdemeanor child abuse. The child abuse charges were filed when Austin admitted to having drunk seven wine coolers the previous evening before the crash, and when investigator learned that she had been driving her grandchildren in the car around the same time as the crash.
All the injured were taken to a medical center to be treated for injuries ranging from broken bones to bruising, but by late afternoon all the students except for one were released from the hospital. The more seriously injured child was transferred from the local medical center to a nearby children’s hospital in stable condition. The six uninjured students who were on the bus and who were not taken to get medical attention were transported to school after the crash.
According to personal injury attorneys at Ankin Law Office LLC, 21 million children ride on school buses every day in the United States. While parents put their children on the bus, in most cases they do not know who the driver is, what his or her qualifications are for driving a bus, or what safety and emergency protocols are in place.
Austin is being held at the Alexander County Detention Center on bond and is scheduled to appear in court in late January.The investigation is still in process.