BURGETTSTOWN – Burgettstown School District officials confirmed Thursday that bus drivers failed to report a Wednesday traffic accident on Route 18 that involved two school buses to police. The accident occurred when a bus driven by Gretchen Rheinlander, 61, of Burgettstown, rear-ended a bus driven by Nancy Halling, 64, of Burgettstown, on Route 18 after leaving Burgettstown Elementary Center. Both buses were loaded with students.
Rheinlander told police that she was looking for a student in a rear-view mirror when she struck Halling’s bus, which was stopped in traffic.
McDonald police said they are investigating the incident.
“We’re taking it very seriously,” said McDonald police Officer Jordan Faust. “This is a very serious situation with very young kids involved, and there were injuries.”
Burgettstown Superintendent Debbie Jackson said school district procedure mandates that bus drivers contact local police and the district’s director of transportation, Nato D’Urco. While the director was called after the accident, both bus drivers failed to dial 911.
Jackson would not say if any disciplinary action would be taken against either driver, citing an ongoing investigation by the district. Neither driver transported students Thursday.
Jackson said that once she was notified, she attempted to contact the parents of the students involved.
“We contacted all the parents,” Jackson said. “Some took their kids to medical facilities, but there was nothing serious. We were mostly concerned with whiplash and concussions.”
Parents took some of the children to medical facilities, including Weirton (W.Va.) Medical Center and MedExpress after they were dropped off at home.
Faust said that of the roughly 60 students on the buses at least 11 were taken to the emergency room with injuries that included whiplash, possible broken wrists, back pain, headaches and concussion. One parent told her that as many as a dozen students were taken home from school early on Thursday.
Both vehicles sustained damage. Bus No. 19, which was driven by Halling and was rear-ended, suffered a broken rear emergency door window and a damaged bumper while bus No. 9, driven by Rheinlander, was immobilized with front-end damage. The second bus had to be towed from the scene.
Faust said it was too early in the investigation to release the speed of the bus at the time of the accident, but the driver told police she was going under the 25 mph speed limit.
McDonald police said they were not notified of the incident until a passing motorist complained of road debris caused by the accident.
Police are asking parents of students involved to call the department at 724-926-2105.