All 39 Carey junior high students are either at home or at school Friday after several were injured in a bus rollover Tuesday afternoon near Richfield.
“It could have been so much worse and we were definitely blessed in that effect,” John Peck, Carey’s school principal, said Wednesday.
Peck said he initially got a call at about 12:30 p.m. about a bus accident. He didn’t know whose bus it was or if it was very bad, he said, but he hoped it wasn’t his junior high kids. The Carey seventh- and eighth-graders were headed to a track meet in Gooding, their second-to-last meet.
Peck said that around 1 p.m., Carey School Athletic Director Lee Jay Cook called and let him know it was the Carey bus, and that it rolled. After telling a few people what happened, he headed for the door.
“Then we took off,” he said. “I took my wife with me. She’s an advanced EMT.”
He said that when he arrived, there were about 20 people already on the scene helping the students.
“Lots of volunteers, lots of good people,” he said.
The cause of the accident is still under investigation. The Idaho State Police reported that bus was headed west on U.S. Highway 26 when it drove off the right shoulder, over-corrected and rolled. The police stated in a press release that the driver, Richard Mecham, 67, was unharmed, but 12 students were taken to nearby hospitals, five via helicopter and seven by ambulance.
Blaine County School District spokeswoman Heather Crocker said the students were transported to five hospitals around the area for injuries that included “lacerations, concussions and broken bones.”
“The main injuries were concussions,” she said.
School District Superintendent
GwenCarol Holmes said district staff went to all hospitals, staying there until every student was either admitted or released Tuesday night. Two students remained in the hospital at 9 p.m. that night. One was released later that night, while the last was released Wednesday, she said.
“Everybody’s extremely grateful and a little emotional,” Holmes said in a call from Carey Wednesday.
Holmes said police took the rolled bus and are using it in the investigation, but that there were still enough busses to transport students. She said Mecham is home and will not be driving for the district until an investigation is complete.
State Police spokesman Tim Marsano said the investigation should yield initial findings in seven to 10 days, but that a final, comprehensive report could take weeks or months.
Principal Peck said he was at the scene until about 3:30 p.m., leaving only after all the students had been transported elsewhere. Since then, he said, the outpouring of support for the Carey students has been huge.
He said neighboring schools and districts offered to help in any way they could, including providing transportation to get kids home Tuesday. He said two girls from Richfield came to the Carey School on Wednesday, bringing a poster signed by Richfield students.
“I’m just really thankful for everybody that was a part of it,” he said, referring to all the help the school and students received.
Peck said the school will still hold the two track meets it was scheduled to host in the next week, but one was delayed. The high school Lee Cook Memorial meet was moved from Thursday, April 20, to Monday, April 24. Meanwhile, the last junior high track meet, the Ribbon Meet, will still be set for Tuesday, April 25.
He said about a dozen students and a coach involved in the accident returned to school the day after the ordeal. While some are back, he said, others will likely be out for a while and many likely won’t compete in the upcoming track meet.
“It will take time to heal,” he said, “but they’re all here.”