RED SPRINGS — A Lumberton man is fighting for his life after his pickup truck crossed the centerline of Mt. Zion Church Road on Tuesday and collided head-on with a Robeson County school bus, which was then rear-ended by another school bus, according to the N.C. Highway Patrol.
A female student was taken to Scotland Memorial Hospital, Highway Patrol Trooper Robbie Terry said. One of the bus drivers also was taken to an undisclosed hospital for treatment. The student’s and driver’s names were not released.
The student suffered minor injuries and the driver was taken for observation, Tasha Oxendine, a Public Schools of Robeson County spokesperson, said Tuesday evening.
Samuel Ray Hunt, 20, of 2411 Odum Road, was airlifted to McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence, S.C., and was in critical condition in the intensive care unit as of early Tuesday evening, Terry said. After the truck collided with bus No. 305, it spun around 360 degrees and came to rest in a swamp next to Mt. Zion Church Road near Red Springs.
The pickup truck was pulled out of the water so emergency personnel could cut Hunt out of his truck, Terry said.
“He was hurt pretty bad. They had to take the roof off the vehicle to get him out,” the trooper said. “There will be charges pending, we don’t know what they are yet. We are still investigating.”
Hunt was alone in the vehicle.
According to Trooper Terry, Hunt was driving east along Mt. Zion Church Road at about 3:05 p.m. when the truck he was driving crossed the centerline and collided with bus No. 305, which was carrying about 50 students. Bus No. 482, with five students inside, then hit No. 305 from behind. That driver was cited for failure to reduce speed..
Students from Peterson Elementary, Red Springs Middle and Red Springs High School and Oxendine Elementary schools were on the buses, Oxendine said.
“We have to commend both bus drivers for their prompt response. They saw smoke coming from the pickup truck and got all the kids off the buses,” said John Ammons, chief of the Red Springs Volunteer Fire Department. “If there would have been a fire they (kids) were already at a safe distance away.”
“The kids were a little shaken,” he said. “It’s the parents who appeared distraught about the incident.”
The students were all picked up by their parents or guardians without incident, Ammons said.
The first thing he did when he arrived on scene was check on the kids, said William Blanks, assistant director of Transportation for the Public Schools of Robeson County.
“I just wanted to make sure the kids were all right,” Blanks said. “The damage to the school buses will probably cost in the range of $50,000. A new one costs $90,000.”
The Red Springs and Smith volunteer fire departments; Robeson County Emergency Medical Services personnel; Red Springs and Pembroke rescue units; and the N.C. Highway Patrol responded to the accident, which kept the road closed for about four hours.
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