TODAY'S NEWS

Field trip buses crash on return from D.C.; Morrison Elementary students among 23 injured

The Warren Sentinel

FRONT ROYAL — Two buses carrying 95 E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School students returning from a Washington D.C. field trip were involved in a wreck on John Marshall Highway (Va. 55) Tuesday, according to Virginia State Police Public Information Officer Sgt. Les Tyler.

Warren County Fire and Rescue units were dispatched at about 3:40 p.m. to the High Knob entrance on John Marshall Highway. Nine students and seven adults were treated and transported Warren Memorial Hospital with minor injuries, said Warren County Fire Chief Richard Mabie in a news release.

Another seven patients were transported by personal vehicles and treated in the emergency room as of 8 p.m. Monday, Mabie said.

Tyler said a 2003 Motor Coach Industries bus driven by Debra Turner, 58, of Luray, was stopped behind a Honda, driven by Michael Steeil, 35, of Trenton, N.J.

Another bus, a 1996 MCI, driven by Carlton Roman, 57, of Front Royal, ran into the first bus, which then rammed the Honda. After investigation by Virginia State Police Trooper Baker Williams, Roman was ticketed for following too close, Tyler said.

John Marshall Highway was closed in both directions until 6p.m. as the rescue units handled the situation, Mabie said.

Students in the first bus used the door to evacuate, but those in the second bus used the emergency evacuation windows.

Mabie said all Warren County Fire and Rescue staffed ambulances were used, and assistance was requested from two Strasburg stations.

Personnel from the Front Royal, Rivermont, Linden, Warren County, North Warren and Strasburg fire stations responded. A total of five ambulances and two engines were used. Fire and Rescue staff were assisted by the Warren County Sheriffís Office.

Cliff Balderson. administrator of the Virginia Department of Transportationís Edinburg residency said Warren County submitted John Marshall Highway to be on the Staunton Construction Districtís priority list last fall, but it did not make the list. He said VDOT could not set aside money for the project until it was on the list.

Balderson said VDOT is aware of issues on John Marshall Highway and officials would like to see the police report and talk to state police to see if any short-term improvements could be made.

Warren County Supervisor Tony Carter said the county is aware that the High Knob intersection is dangerous. He praised the quick responses by EMS and Sheriffís Department.

"It would be nice to put in a left-hand turn lane," Carter said. "But the estimates of that would be roughly a couple million dollars. One concern is we donít really want to do something that would have to be re-done once they approve this project."

Carter said the county put up a warning light a few years ago but it became ìpart of the scenery.î He also said a reduction in the speed limit may be ignored. Additionally, he said narrow shoulders prevented law enforcement from having a good place to check speed.

Assistant County Administrator Robert Childress said John Marshall Highway has been the number one primary highway project for about the last three years. He said some improvements the county would like to see include implementing four lanes, new turn lanes, improvement of sight distance and wider shoulders.

"The whole roadway, from the corporate limits of Front Royal out to Linden, basically needs to be reconstructed to current VDOT geometric standards. The traffic alone would dictate the need for four lanes," Childress said.


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