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No major injuries after bus accident

By Kevin O’Brien

Officials from the Colby School District and Burnett Transit are expressing great relief after no students were killed or seriously injured as the result of a bus accident last week near Dorchester.

One student suffered a bump on his head and few others got some bruises, but none of the 25 kids on the bus had to be taken to a hospital for emergency treatment.

“It was astonishing that everybody walked away from that almost literally unscathed,” said Joe Burnett, who was driving the bus when it was struck.

The Dec. 5 accident occurred in the afternoon as Bus 7 was headed eastbound on Draper Road, just north of Dorchester. Burnett said a southbound pickup truck blew through a yield sign on Reynolds Road and hit the driver’s side of the bus between the axles.

“That bus took a hard hit,” he said.

The force of the impact sent the bus sideways, Burnett said, and after sliding several feet, it came to a rest on its driver’s side, preventing any escape from the front of the bus.

Burnett said the students followed all of the emergency protocols perfectly, allowing everyone to escape out of the emergency exit without incident.

“The older students did an incredible job with the younger students, making sure they were getting out OK,” he said. “It was amazing.”

The way the bus withstood the impact is a testament to how well school buses are built, he said. The exterior was badly damaged, but the floor inside never warped and the cabin area near the area of impact remained intact, he said.

Burnett said one of the grandparents who came to pick up a student looked at the wreckage and commented “I cannot believe that nobody got killed.”

The mother of the child who got a bump on his head did take him to the hospital later that night, just to get him checked out, Burnett said.

In an email to district staff the day after the accident, superintendent Steve Kolden said he was told by Burnett that the kids did an “awesome” job handling the situation.

“Within 30 minutes of my call from Burnett Transit, all families had been contacted and all students were being picked up from the site,” Kolden wrote.

No students had to be transported by ambulance, but the bus had to be towed from the scene.

“Given the way the truck looked that hit the bus and the way the bus itself looked, we are very fortunate,” Kolden said on Friday.

Burnett said someone from the Wisconsin State Patrol told him that the driver of the truck will be cited for the accident, most likely for failure to yield or inattentive driving.