Nine St. Clair R-XIII School District students attended classes as usual on Monday even though they were involved in an accident while riding their bus earlier in the morning.
One of the students was treated at the scene for a minor injury after the 7:40 a.m. mishap on West Springfield Road about 1.5 miles outside the St. Clair city limits, but did not require transport to a hospital, officials said.
St. Clair R-XIII Assistant Superintendent Mark Denbow said he believed the girl’s injury occurred when the impact of the collision forced her to bump her head into the back of the seat in front of her.
All nine students — who attend either St. Clair Elementary, Edgar Murray or St. Clair Junior High schools — were loaded onto another bus and taken to the elementary school for further evaluation. There, they again were checked by EMS personnel as well as a district nurse. Their parents were contacted, and the pupils were given the option to attend school or go home for the day.
Denbow said all of the youngsters decided to attend classes.
“We feel very fortunate no one was seriously injured,” Denbow told The Missourian later on Monday morning. “We have a process in place when something unfortunate like this happens, and everyone did what they were supposed to. It sure could have been a lot worse.”
The two-vehicle accident took place in front of the residence at 816 W. Springfield Road. The speed limit there is 40 mph.
According to information gathered at the scene as well as from Denbow and the Missouri Highway Patrol, Bus 22 driver Patricia Jackson was westbound on West Springfield Road picking up students when she said an eastbound car approached. Both she and a witness said the car was swerving on both sides of the road.
In her accident report given to the R-XIII administration, Jackson said she slowed the bus and moved to the right as far as she could. The car crossed the centerline and ran into the front driver’s side wheel of the bus, breaking the cap that holds the brake fluid. The car proceeded to scrape the side of the bus and damage its rear wheel as well.
Both Jackson and the witness said the driver of the car then fled in the vehicle. Both were found on another road closer to St. Clair.
Sgt. Al Nothum of the MHP told The Missourian on Monday afternoon that Larry G. Presley, 28, of St. Clair, was arrested on suspicion of leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident, driving while intoxicated, driving while suspended and for two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Nothum said two children were in the car with Presley.
“Basically, he sideswiped the bus and left the scene,” Nothum said, adding that Presley and his vehicle were found on Peacock Road closer to the St. Clair city limits.
The patrol’s online report stated that Presley was arrested at 7:48 a.m. He was taken to the Franklin County’s Sheriff’s Office and later released.
“A citizen saw him (on Peacock Road),” Nothum said. “His car was falling apart after the accident and was barely driveable. This citizen stayed with him and distracted him until an officer arrived.”
After the accident, Denbow said Jackson immediately called the school district’s transportation supervisor, Renee Comia, who then called 911. St. Clair Fire and Ambulance personnel arrived on the scene as did St. Clair police officers.
The children were checked before they exited the bus and got on the replacement bus that was called to the scene.
“I applaud our bus driver,” Denbow said of Jackson. “She did everything she could. She did a great job with this. She was attentive and driving defensively. I don’t think she could have done more.
“I also appreciate all the school personnel and emergency responders who were there.”
Denbow and SCES School Principal Nadine Myers were among the R-XIII personnel to respond.
After the scene was cleared, the bus was driven to a nearby lot along West Springfield where it was checked. It then was driven to the R-XIII bus barn where it will be rechecked and fixed. Denbow said it may not be back in operation until the fall. In the meantime, a different bus will handle the route.
“We’ll make do,” Denbow said. “The bus won’t be used again until we’re 100 percent sure it’s mechanically sound. Until then, we’ll use a replacement bus.”
Denbow said Jackson is a veteran R-XIII bus driver with several years of experience.