UPDATE: Tacoma Public Schools released video Friday of Tuesday's school bus accident.
The mom and grandmother of Tacoma students injured in a school bus crash this week are questioning the way the incident was handled by both police and the private contractor that operates most Tacoma Public Schools buses.
The accident happened about 5 p.m. Tuesday at South 19th and Mildred streets, Tacoma police spokesman Mark Fulghum said. The bus was transporting 16 students home from after-school activities at Truman Middle School.
Fulghum said the bus was making a left turn, and the driver of an oncoming car mistook a green left-turn arrow for a green light and collided with the bus. He said the driver of the car was cited for a traffic violation.
Marie Kelly, grandmother of two students injured in the crash, is angry because paramedics were not called. Instead, she said, police and a supervisor from Durham School Services, which provides bus service for Tacoma schools, determined there were no injuries.
“A paramedic should make the judgment on whether a child is injured,” Kelly said.
Durham spokesman Blaine Krage said the company is reviewing video and audio recordings from the bus. He said Durham’s protocol in bus accidents is to have both its supervisor and responding safety officials – in this case, police – make an assessment at the scene.
Both Kelly’s grandchildren were taken to the hospital by their parents after the accident. Kelly said both had concussions.
Angelika Crawford, who is Kelly’s daughter and the mother of Truman eighth-grader Savonna Fields, said Savonna called her on a cellphone shortly after the accident. She was riding the bus with her cousin.
“She said they were scared and they hit their heads,” Crawford said. “My daughter hit the seat in front of her and in back of her, then fell on the floor.”
Crawford went to the scene of the accident, then took her daughter to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. She said Savonna had a neck injury and back spasms as well as a concussion. She kept her daughter home from school on Wednesday and took her to the family doctor for further evaluation.
Crawford said a Durham employee boarded the bus and asked if anybody was hurt.
“But no medical attention was given to any children on site,” she said. “Children get scared and they don’t speak up right away. Someone should have made the call to have an ambulance check out these kids.”
She said her daughter also saw a police officer on the bus, but because of the noise she didn’t hear what he was saying.
Fulghum said an off-duty officer at a nearby transit center saw the accident, reported it about 5 p.m., and shortly afterward said there didn’t appear to be any injuries.
“He called it out right away,” Fulghum said. “That’s the first thing, you check for injuries. You observe and you ask people. Generally speaking, if anybody says they are injured or wants medical aid, they (officers) call them.”
About 15 minutes after the initial call, a motorcycle officer arrived on scene, Fulghum said. A supervisor from the bus company was also there, and the motorcycle officer dealt with her at that time, Fulghum said.
The officer asked the supervisor two to three times if anyone needed medical aid, and she said she didn’t think so, Fulghum said.
Tacoma Public Schools spokesman Dan Voelpel said that most students were able to reach parents after the accident using cellphones, and most kids went home with parents. Five were unable to contact their parents, and they were taken home on another Durham bus, he said.
Krage said the company could make changes in procedures if a review shows it’s warranted.
“We are a company that could not take safety any more seriously than we do,” he said. “We review each incident to see if there are ways we could have handled it better.”Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635 debbie.cafazzo@ thenewstribune.com