NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- Police charged a school bus driver after the bus she was driving overturned at Thole Street and Tidewater Drive Tuesday morning.
Officers issued citations to Callie Goodwyn, 71, for Reckless Driving and Failure to Maintain Control of Vehicle.
The bus was on its way to Norfolk Technical Vocational Center with a group of students from Granby High School around 7:30 a.m. The crash happened when it hit a jersey wall as it was accessing the on-ramp to Interstate 64.
Norfolk police said about 24 students were on board. The driver and about nine of the students were taken to either Sentara Norfolk General Hospital or Bon Secours DePaul Medical Center as a precaution and for evaluation/treatment for minor injuries. No one else on the bus was hurt.
By late Tuesday afternoon all patients had been released.
Norfolk Public Schools spokeswoman Karen Rose-Tanner said the incident is under investigation and that she could not comment about the status of the Goodwyn's employment because it was a personnel matter.
Two students told 13News Now they helped other students off the bus after it overturned.
"The next thing I knew, all I could see was the ground, the window had shattered. So my friend Sean fell on top of me and that's about it, and I was just trying to help people out," said Brian Roper.
"Lots of people were just going crazy, screaming, crying and we just helped everybody off," added Semaj Haynes.
They said it seemed that the bus had been going too fast as it got onto the on ramp.
One students says people were screaming, one complaining of leg pain @13NewsNow— Elise Brown (@13EliseDBrown) November 15, 2016"
Investigators said the bus was the only vehicle involved in the wreck. They would not confirm if speed was a factor, but told 13News Now Goodwyn told them she had been blinded by the sunlight.
Photos from the scene sent by a 13News Now viewer showed the bus on its side, and students standing outside of the vehicle.
Norfolk Police closed Tidewater Drive and Thole Street for a time, but reopened it at about 8:45 a.m. VDOT cameras showed the exit ramp on I-64 had been blocked off.
Some parents raised a number of concerns when they spoke to 13News Now, including the fact that the school bus did not have seat belts.
Federal guidelines from the United States Department of Transportation do not require large school buses such as the one involved in the wreck Tuesday to have safety belts. Among the reasons why they don't: the weight of the buses and the compartmental design of the buses.
Small school buses with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less must have lap and/or lap/shoulder belts at all designated seating positions.
Mark R. Rosekind, Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hopes to change that.
During an address at the National Association for Pupil Transportation's annual summit in Richmond in 2015, he said the position of NHTSA is that "...seat belts save lives. That is true whether in a passenger car or in a big yellow bus." He added the group's goal is to have a "three-point belt for every child on every bus."
Rosekind told attendees that NHTSA will use many approaches to achieve that goal.
Kathryn Henry, a spokeswoman for NHTSA, told 13News Now Tuesday that there are many promising discussions taking place across the country since the agency came out strongly in support of seat belts on school buses.
Henry explained the regulatory challenge is that deaths and serious injuries in school buses are extremely rare. The school bus remains, by far, the safest way to get children to and from school.
While Henry said there are real concerns about the cost of equipping all buses with belts, NHTSA is working with states that mandate seat belts on school buses to learn ways to address costs and other factors. She, as Rosekind did last year, emphasized that seat belts save lives, adding, "It's as simple as that."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Web site provides a vast amount of information about school bus safety and the findings of tests and studies involving seat belts.
The following is an excerpt addressing some questions NHTSA frequently receives:
We have seat belts in passenger cars. Why don’t we have them on school buses?
Seat belts have been required on passenger cars since 1968. Forty-nine States and the District of Columbia have enacted laws requiring the wearing of seat belts in passenger cars and light trucks. There is no question that seat belts play an important role in keeping occupants safe in theses vehicles, however school buses are different by design and use a different kind of safety restraint system that works extremely well.
Large school buses are heavier and distribute crash forces differently than do passenger cars and light trucks. Because of these differences, the crash forces experienced by occupants of buses are much less than that experienced by occupants of passenger cars, light trucks or vans. NHTSA decided that the best way to provide crash protection to passengers of large school buses is through a concept called “compartmentalization.” This requires that the interior of large buses provide occupant protection such that children are protected without the need to buckle-up. Through compartmentalization, occupant crash protection is provided by a protective envelope consisting of strong, closely-spaced seats that have energy-absorbing seat backs.
Small school buses (with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less) must be equipped with lap and/or lap/shoulder belts at all designated seating positions. Since the sizes and weights of small school buses are closer to those of passenger cars and trucks, seat belts in those vehicles are necessary to provide occupant protection.
School bus crash data show that compartmentalization has been effective at protecting school bus passengers. NHTSA’s 2002 Report to Congress found that the addition of lap belts did not improve occupant protection for the severe frontal impacts that were studied for that report.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) have come to similar conclusions. The NTSB concluded in a 1987 study of school bus crashes that most fatalities and injuries occurred because the occupant seating positions were in direct line with the crash forces.[2 NTSB stated that seat belts would not have prevented most of the serious injuries and fatalities from occurring in school bus crashes. In 1989, the NAS completed a study of ways to improve school bus safety and concluded that the overall potential benefits of requiring seat belts on large school buses were insufficient to justify a Federal mandate for installation. NAS also stated that the funds used to purchase and maintain seat belts might be better spent on other school bus safety programs and devices that could save more lives and reduce more injuries.
Can States or school districts purchase large school buses that have seat belts?
States or school districts are not prohibited by the federal government from purchasing seat belts at any passenger seating position in large public school buses. Over the past 30 years, some States have required new large school buses to come equipped with seat belts. There have been no documented injuries or fatalities resulting from use of the seat belts on school buses. However, States should take into consideration the increased capital costs, reduced seating capacities, and other unintended consequences associated with seat belts that could result in more children seeking alternative means of traveling to and from school or school-related events. These alternative modes of travel could put children at greater risk because they are not nearly as safe as school buses. If seat belts are to be beneficial, States that require them on school buses should ensure that the belts are worn properly by all school bus passengers.