Edgewood High students hurt on bus trip to Disney World

Most injuries are minor

two drivers given tickets

April 05, 2003|By Jonathan D. Rockoff | Jonathan D. Rockoff,SUN STAFF

Thirty-nine Edgewood High School students on a band trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., were injured yesterday morning when their three tour buses collided in rush-hour traffic about 10 miles from their destination.

Two of the students required stitches, but most of the injuries were minor cuts and bruises, and the Harford County teen-agers were released from area hospitals by midafternoon, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

The accident took place shortly before 7 a.m. on four-lane Interstate 4 just north of Sanford. All told, 94 band members and 21 chaperones were on the last leg of an overnight bus trip taking them to a music festival at Epcot Center, where they were to perform tomorrow.

Parents in Harford County were notified by 7 a.m. by students who telephoned from the buses.

Tom Holsclaw of Abingdon said his son Jeff telephoned to say he felt sore after the crash, but "beside that, he's fine."

"He said they would get backstage passes to Epcot, and they were pretty excited about that," Holsclaw said. "He's a 15-year-old kid. They bounce back pretty quick."

Marietta Brooks, also of Abingdon, said her son David was not injured but that a friend of his needed stitches.

David, she said, was "a little shaken up, but that's to be expected. They were anxious to get to the park; they wanted to get on with their trip."

The group is expected to perform tomorrow as scheduled, said Donald Morrison, the Harford County school system spokesman.

The accident occurred when the first of the three tour buses -- traveling one behind the other -- stopped in heavy morning traffic, said Kim Miller, a spokeswoman for the Florida Highway Patrol.

The second bus couldn't stop in time and rear-ended the first one. The third bus also couldn't stop and hit the second one, Miller said.

The injured students were taken to several area hospitals. The rest were taken to nearby Sanford Middle School, which doubles as a shelter in emergencies.

The Florida Highway Patrol ticketed the drivers of the second and third buses for "careless driving," which carries a $96 fine.

"The buses were not driving recklessly. Speed was not a factor. It was just that they did not give themselves enough room to stop," Miller said.

She identified the two drivers as Diamond George Kimos, 57, of Baltimore and William Carmichael, 67, of Cockeysville. The lead bus was driven by Robert Bradby, 56, of Baltimore.

Edgewood High's band members had been planning the weekend trip for months. It was their first trip to the Epcot music festival.

Also attending the festival is the Havre de Grace High School band, which flew to Florida on Thursday, said Morrison, the school system spokesman.

Superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas, who recently barred school travel to New York, Washington and Philadelphia because of the federal government's heightened terror alert, signed off on the trips, Morrison said.

The Edgewood High students and their chaperones, including six high school staff, left Thursday at 1:30 p.m. They headed south on tour buses chartered from Hunt Valley Motor Coach.

About midnight, the buses changed drivers in Florence, S.C., said Ed Royston, president of the bus company. He said the accident was not serious.

The accident took place just after the buses drove over the St. Johns River bridge, on a stretch of highway that is being widened to accommodate the heavy volume of rush-hour traffic from the Orlando suburbs.

Florida Highway Patrol's Miller said the lead bus was forced to stop when cars in front of it changed lanes. She said the second and third buses tried to swerve to avoid the accident.

The buses were traveling under the 55-mph speed limit, she said.

Alan Harris, a spokesman for the Seminole County Fire Department, said rescue crews initially had trouble unloading students from the buses because the doors had jammed shut.

Harris said all three buses were towed from the accident scene, which closed the highway's westbound lanes until 10:15 a.m.

Seminole County public school buses carried those not taken to area hospitals to Sanford Middle School. In the gymnasium, students ate pizza, drank orange juice, played pingpong and watched local news reports about the accident.

"The people in Florida have been terrific," said Rich White, an adult with the group.

Ten students were treated at the school for cuts and bruises and then taken to area hospitals for evaluation, Harris said.

All students who were taken to hospitals were released to Sanford by midafternoon, Harris said. From there, band members and chaperones were driven to their Orlando hotel.

Sun staff writer Andrew Green and the Orlando Sentinel, a Tribune Publishing newspaper, contributed to this article.

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