13 injured as buses collide in Frederick

Cockeysville Middle pupils were on way to band event

May 06, 2004|By Jennifer McMenamin and Sara Neufeld | Jennifer McMenamin and Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

Thirteen Cockeysville Middle School pupils were injured yesterday morning when two school buses collided on the way to a state band festival in Frederick.

All of the injured children, including a 13-year-old girl airlifted to Johns Hopkins Hospital with neck and jaw pain, were released yesterday afternoon.

The school's band -- despite missing half its clarinet section, three horn players and a saxophonist -- went on to the state contest, where the group earned the highest rating possible.

"They played their hearts out," said Jon Sindler, the school's music teacher and band director who was riding on the bus that was rear-ended. "They didn't let it throw them and just covered for the kids not there. It was like working with a group of professional musicians."

The accident occurred about 10 a.m. as three buses from Cockeysville Middle, carrying 80 pupils, the band director and several parent chaperones, headed to the music festival. The school's eighth-grade group was invited to yesterday's competition after receiving high marks at a district contest.

The lead bus passed safely through a stop-sign intersection on New Design Road at Guilford Drive, just off Interstate 70, said Deputy Jennifer Bailey, a spokeswoman with the Frederick County Sheriff's Office. But as the second bus proceeded through the junction, it was rear-ended by the third bus, whose driver failed to stop at the stop sign, Bailey said.

Driver William E. St. Clair, 60, of Delta, Pa., was charged with failure to reduce speed to avoid a collision, Bailey said.

Lauri Feeney, a parent chaperone traveling on the lead bus, said the roads were wet at the time and that the buses were "following each other closely" because the drivers didn't all have directions to Tuscarora High School in Frederick, where the competition was being held.

Michael Hu, 14, said he and his fellow band mates were not sure what had happened when their bus was struck.

"I thought we had hit a big speed bump," he said. "It didn't hurt, but it was rather forceful."

Police and fire personnel arrived within minutes, Sindler, the band director, said, and helped the injured children.

Eleven girls and one boy with bumps and bruises were taken to Frederick Memorial Hospital, where emergency room physicians evaluated them and ran neck and spine X-rays, checking for injuries typical of rear-end collisions, hospital spokesman Harry Grandinett said.

The 12 children -- all of whom had been riding on the bus that struck the vehicle in front of it -- were released to their parents by 2:15 p.m., Grandinett said.

One girl complaining of neck and jaw pain was taken by helicopter to Hopkins' pediatric emergency room as a precaution, said Cockeysville Middle Principal Philip Taylor, who met the child and the parent chaperone who accompanied her on the helicopter at the hospital. She, too, was released yesterday.

Parent volunteers and school staff at Cockeysville Middle called the parents of all 80 children on the band trip to let them know about the accident and to tell them what time the pupils who performed were due back.

A crowd of parents awaited their return to the school yesterday afternoon, and as Bus Nos. 630 and 634 pulled into the driveway about 4:20 p.m., some mothers and fathers ran ahead to hug their children.

Many pupils wore gold Burger King crowns, evidence, they said, of their musical victory and their fast-food lunch.

"We owned it," Michael, a clarinet player, said of the group's performance. "It was different playing without the others but not difficult."

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