November 9, 2010
The driver of a bus that slid off an icy highway Tuesday night east of Colorado Springs, injuring a dozen people, was cited for careless driving causing injury, the Colorado State Patrol said.
Les Dawson, 65, of Simla, didn’t leave enough room between his bus and the vehicle ahead of it, said Trooper Nate Reid.
“He has the same due diligence to drive safely like everyone else,” Reid said. “As a bus driver, he has to be in tune with his equipment.”
Twelve people were injured, none seriously, in the rollover crash around 9:30 p.m. on U.S. 24. near Peyton.
The bus was carrying 29 passengers — 24 Calhan Middle School students on the boys and girls basketball teams and five adults, including team coaches, who were returning from games in Colorado Springs, Reid said.
A mass casualty alert was issued after the crash, which calls for all available ambulances in the surrounding area to respond.
Ten injured students and one adult were taken by ambulance to area hospitals and a 31-year-old man with an arm injury was flown by helicopter to Penrose Hospital, according to the state patrol. All were treated and released.
Dawson was not injured in the crash and all of the passengers were able to walk away from the wrecked bus, said Colorado State Patrol Capt. Chuck Cargin.
Cargin said he was amazed that no one on the bus was badly injured when it fell onto its side and ended up in a ditch.
“This is as good as it could get for them,” he said.
The bus was going about 35 mph east of Peyton on a stretch of highway that had turned into a sheet of ice as temperatures dropped after light rain and snow had been falling for a few hours.
A car in front of the bus hit its brakes and Dawson lost control when he attempted to slow down, Cargin said. The bus spun counterclockwise and rolled onto its right side in a ditch on the north side of the highway, he said.
Emergency crews reported extreme black ice conditions, and U.S. 24 was closed in both directions while rescuers took the injured to hospitals and got the bus upright. The highway was reopened at 13:30 a.m.
Peyton Fire Chief Jack Rauer said when he arrived most of the students had gotten out of the bus through the rear emergency exit.
“It was chaotic,” he said, adding parents also had arrived and were loading kids into vehicles.
Several students were bleeding from cuts and scratches, and others complained of pain, so he called for a “mass casualty” response to ensure there were enough ambulances for those who needed to be taken to a hospital.
Eight ambulances headed for the scene, but three were canceled, he said, when it became clear they weren’t needed.
The bus was carrying seventh- and eighth-grade basketball players who were returning from games against The Vanguard School in Colorado Springs, said Linda Miller, Calhan superintendent.
Dina Fuqua, athletic director at Vanguard, said the Calhan team bus left about 8:50 p.m.
Miller, who had attended the games, said she got a call from one of the coaches about the crash.
“The biggest concern I have are the children,” she said, adding that she has contacted counselors to ensure they are available to the students today.
“They’re scared,” she said. “It was a pretty significant situation for them.”
The Gazette’s Jakob Rodgers and Lance Benzel contributed to this report.