Waggener High School parent upset with charter bus Service

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by Gene Kang

WHAS11.com

Posted on June 13, 2013 at 12:54 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 13 at 4:51 PM

 LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- The mother of an injured Waggener High School student said she is angry over the bus crash Tuesday that left her son recovering at the hospital.

WHAS 11 learned that the Commonwealth bus had not been inspected in two years.

Sam Russell, 16, will spend weeks in Kosair Children’s Hospital. The violinist played in the orchestra and took advanced level courses. He spoke us over the phone from the Intensive Care Unit about the trip to Eastern Kentucky University that turned traumatic.

Russell suffered a shattered pelvis and punctured lung when the Commonwealth Bus Service bus he was riding in crashed in to the center retaining wall. His mother still dazed 48 hours later.

"It was very very frightening and tears at your gut," Russell’s mother, Wynde Rich, said.

Russell was one of 30 Waggener students on board the bus when Kentucky State Police said the front left tire exploded. 

"It's been painful, confined to my bed all day. But I guess I'm doing alright for someone who got out of a bus crash," Russell said.

Russell said he was sitting in the back of the bus when it suddenly crossed over the left lanes near the Jefferson-Shelby County line and smashed in to the median. A truck driver captured shocking dash cam video.

"It popped and we swerved over two lanes and we hit the median. Everyone on the right side of the bus flew over to the left side of the bus and crashed into everyone there," Russell said.

It sent dozens of students, a female bus driver and teachers to six area hospitals. Kentucky State Police inspectors said the Commonwealth bus #450 was last inspected two years ago.

KSP said the tires were inflated properly and stamped with current dates, but an independent tire expert will check axles.

"If there were any violations or pre-trip violations prior to that bus hitting the road that day,” Scott Cook with KSP Commercial Vehicle Enforcement said.

Russell will undergo a number of surgeries and doctors said he won't be able to walk properly for almost half a year. A summer college visit turned into months of anguish.

Gene: "What do you have to say to the bus company?"

"It is irresponsible. They have to go through that stuff again so this never happens," Russell said.

"If there was some defect in it, yes they are liable. I'm sure I'm saying the same thing just like the other parents," Rich said.

Kentucky State inspectors said the bus was in good standing before the crash.

The formal investigation may take weeks, if not months, as they literally pull apart the axles, check tread on remaining tires and other parts to see exactly what caused the front left tire to blow. Investigators said at some point they will shut down the section of I-64 west where the accident occurred to re-enact what happened.

Bus trips to Northern Kentucky University, Bellarmine University and Spaulding University have been canceled.

Waggener High School hired the Commonwealth bus with Federal grant money, according to Jefferson County Public Schools. Ben Jackey with JCPS said each individual school handles which bus company they decide to hire. 

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