Authorities said the driver of a vehicle that struck a school bus Thursday causing a crash that injured three students may have been impaired.
Union police said Thomas J. Wright, 25, Union, was driving a 2004 Dodge Stratus westbound on Highway 50 at 3:31 p.m. when the vehicle crossed the center line and struck a school bus carrying 40 children.
The Wright vehicle struck the rear side of the bus driven by Stacey Verneal, 52, Villa Ridge. The impact caused a tire to blow and come off the wheel.
The Wright vehicle then left the south side of the road and struck a utility pole near the entrance to Barreth Ford.
Verneal safely pulled the bus to the shoulder of Highway 50, according to police.
Three students, ages 17, 14 and 10, were taken to Mercy Hospital Washington with minor injuries. Union, St. Clair and Washington Ambulance crews assisted at the scene, as well as Union firefighters.
Wright was taken from the scene with serious injuries, police said.
According to preliminary reports, Wright was “impaired” during the crash. He consented to submit blood for testing, Union police said.
Charges are pending following a full investigation, authorities said.
Union R-XI School Superintendent Steve Bryant said he monitors bus radio traffic while in the district and responded quickly to the scene with other administrators.
He noted that school staff members called the district office after driving by the crash.
Union School Resource Officer Kevin Anderson was at the scene before school officials arrived.
Along with Bryant, Assistant Superintendant Judy Stivers and Assistant Union High School Principal Amy Carlson responded immediately to the scene. Central Elementary Principal Aaron Jones also went to the crash scene.
“Fortunately Kevin Anderson was at the scene and he already had contacted me,” said Bryant. “He assessed the situation, then Dr. Stivers and I got to the scene and on the bus.”
“The first thing we did was to check if anybody was hurt,” Bryant added.
Also at the scene was Central Elementary first-grade teacher Sally Denbow, who witnessed the crash.
“She was there to help calm the kids,” said Bryant. “To a lot of kids she looked familiar.”
He added that there were elementary school students, middle school and high school students on the bus.
Bryant said administrators released some students to parents at the crash scene, but only after following proper protocol.
“If parents were there we needed to make that happen,” he said.
Due to safety concerns, Bryant said, parents were required to show identification and sign out their children.
Other students were transported by an empty bus that responded to the crash scene. They were home by 5 p.m., according to Bryant.
“The bulk of the kids weren’t that far from being home,” he said.
Bryant noted that the district is reviewing the situation and will make any needed changes.
“We are already going over a list of how we want to improve,” he said.
According to Bryant, Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Hope stayed at the district office to contact parents of the students involved in the crash.
“All and all it went pretty smooth,” said Bryant. “We will try to have a better student list process, that way the checkout system will go smoother.”