Students treated after Burgettstown school buses collide

February 27, 2013

The superintendent of the Burgettstown School District said Wednesday night she will be determining whether procedure was followed earlier in the day after two buses carrying elementary school children collided on Route 18 (South Main Street.)

McDonald police said Washington County 911 apparently was not contacted after the two buses traveling southbound collided about 3:45 p.m. after leaving Burgettstown Elementary Center. Initial reports indicate about a dozen children were taken for treatment, including several to the Weirton (W.Va.) Medical Center. About five dozen students in kindergarten through fifth grade were on the two buses.

“We received a third party call of debris on the road that appeared to have come from a school bus,” said McDonald Officer Jordan Faust, who is investigating the crash with Officer Jennifer Dempsey. “Then we got a call from an operator at Wally’s Towing who had towed one of the buses. Thankfully, he let us know.”

Faust said the driver of one bus, Nancy Halling, 64, of Burgettstown, had stopped for traffic. The driver of the other bus, Gretchen Rheinlander, 61, of Burgettstown, told police she looked in her rearview mirror to see if a student that needed to be dropped off was on the bus.

“When she looked back, she was not able to stop before colliding with the other bus,” Faust said.

The impact shattered the glass on the bottom panel of the emergency door of the front bus. The radiator on the second bus was damaged. The bus has heavy front-end damage and was disabled.

“Neither driver contacted 911,” Faust said. “They contacted their supervisor, who also did not contact 911.”

The disabled bus was left in the parking lot of a nearby business and the children were loaded into another bus, Faust said. The bus with the damaged rear door continued after the glass was swept out and the children moved closer to the front.

Both bus drivers and their supervisor have been cooperative in the investigation, police said.

School district Superintendent Deborah Jackson said she could not verify whether 911 had been called. The students who sought medical treatment were taken as a precaution. She said she has not met with police.

“I have spent the night checking on the welfare of the children,” Jackson said. “I can’t verify whether 911 was called. But I absolutely will be checking to see if procedures were followed.”

Police are continuing their investigation. Police ask that anyone who might have witnessed the crash or who had students on either bus to call them at 724-926-2105.

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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