Education

Video shows students screaming as school bus slams into tractor-trailer

BRADENTON -- A school bus video camera captured the terror and screams of 26 students as the vehicle slammed into a tractor-trailer in East Manatee. The bus driver is seen yelling "Sit down! Sit down!" at the students, never losing consciousness.

School district officials played the video recording at a press conference Friday, noting that there was no sign that the driver, Charles Robert Orr, 68, attempted to brake before the impact. Orr and 21 students were injured in the crash, which occurred at 4:15 p.m. Thursday.

The school district will pick up all medical expenses related to the crash, Schools Superintendent Tim McGonegal said. He called the press conference at 1 p.m. today to provide an update on the school bus accident.

"We are sorry that this accident happened and that students were injured," McGonegal said in a prepared statement. "The School District of Manatee County wants to assure the families of our injured students that we will be responsible for paying the students' medical bills. Onboard video shows that this accident was the result of driver error."

The video also shows a bystander climbing aboard the moving bus in attempts to help the victims. The bystander, Sam Long, was cut by glass getting on the bus, but still was able to help the bus driver bring the bus to a halt. Two other witnesses tried grabbing the bus's outside mirrors to slow it to a stop.

Crisis teams were on the scene at Braden River Middle School this morning, hours after 21 students and their bus driver were injured in a school bus crash.

Principal Randy Petrilla was at school before the doors opened, along with school resource officers. Some parents were there early today, seeking reassurance that their children were safe, Petrilla said. Students and buses started arriving about 8:30 a.m.

The accident occurred at 4:15 p.m. Thursday on westbound State Road 64. Manatee County school bus No. 560, which was carrying 40 students to their homes from Braden River Middle, crashed into the rear of a Walmart tractor-trailer that was stopped for a red light at the intersection of S.R. 64 and 66th Street Court East, said Lt. Chris Miller of the Florida Highway Patrol.

Orr, of Palmetto, was cited for careless driving after the accident, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The bus ended up a quarter-mile down the road from the accident site, according to the FHP. The injured students were placed on stretchers on the grassy lawn between Walmart and State Road 64 and rushed by a seemingly endless stream of ambulances to nearby hospitals.

The press conference was held at the district’s School Support Center, 215 Manatee Ave. W. Bradenton.

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