COLUMBUS COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Two children and a staff member from the Ransom Head Start Center in Riegelwood were released from the hospital Thursday after their school bus was hit by a semi truck, causing it to flip three times.
The wreck happened on Highway 74-76 in Columbus County Tuesday morning.
The Ransom Head Start Center remains closed for the time being as administrators work to secure counseling services and other resources for students, their families and staff.
“We are in the process of providing counseling to the students, parents and the staff so we have been working with our state office and other avenues to provide that support to them,” said Dr. Ericka Whitaker, the CEO of Southeastern Community and Family Services, which oversees 14 Head Start centers.
Many have described the outcome of the crash as a miracle, but Acme-Delco-Riegelwood Fire Chief Steve Camlin said it was the five point harness seat belts that kept the children safe.
Whitaker said it is Head Start’s policy to have buses with built in five point harness belts.
“Those seat belts and the training that the staff has incurred and also them putting the training into practice and making sure those children were harnessed and double checking they were secure changed the outcome,” Whitaker said.
Camlin said if the children ages three to five were not buckled or had been wearing a normal seat belt, they would have likely been ejected from the bus and the outcome would have been very different.
Velma Daniels, the Ransom Head Start Center Manager says the training and drills conducted by students and staff played a role in the positive outcome.
Daniels said Head Start requires all centers to conduct three bus drills each year. At the Ransom Head Start Center, they conduct a drill each month.
“I think that made a huge difference. I’m almost sure it did,” she said.
The semi-truck driver, Daniel Musick from Statesville, is charged with with failing to reduce speed and more charges could be coming. Authorities say Musick reached down to pick up a cigarette just before hitting the bus.