LOUISVILLE, Ga. - It was a scene that would make parents cringe.
A Jefferson County school bus lay flat on its side in a ditch - the pickup that struck the bus, its hood mangled from the impact, a few feet away. But there were only minor injuries for those involved in Tuesday morning's wreck on Zebina Road in Louisville, and by Wednesday all but four of the 29 Wrens Elementary School pupils who were on the bus were back in class, according to Cynthia Rabun, the assistant superintendent of the Jefferson County schools.
"We were very lucky that they were all safe," Ms. Rabun said in a Wednesday telephone interview.
The accident occurred about 7 a.m., just as bus driver Nancy Usry had picked up a child at one of her stops on the route. A white pickup driven by John Judson Taylor, 50, was traveling north on Zebina Road when he crossed into the southbound lane and struck the school bus head-on, according to Senior Trooper Earl Anderson, of the Georgia State Patrol.
The collision pushed the bus into the east ditch, where it overturned.
"Neither vehicle appears to have gone very far from the point of impact, so I don't believe that speed was much of a factor in the accident, just the size of the vehicle," Trooper Anderson said.
Joe Nelson said he had just finished getting dressed when he heard a loud "kaboom" that shook his house on Zebina Road.
"It sounded like something had come through the roof," he said. "I ran upstairs and halfway there looked out the window and saw the school bus on its side and the truck all mashed up."
He ran out to help and saw that it was the bus upon which he and his wife, Pam, had just put their 4-year-old daughter, Kennedy.
"There was so much smoke at first all you could see was the bus's tires," Mrs. Nelson said. "You could hear the children screaming from up here."
Mrs. Nelson said one of the children was able to open the back emergency door, and her husband began helping the children out. She said the children had to walk down the right side windows to reach her husband at the back door.
"I'm an RN," Mrs. Nelson said, "so I just started triaging them right there, separating them into groups of who was injured and who was not."
Her husband said the children were frightened at first, but soon calmed down.
"They were lucky none of them were seriously injured," Mrs. Nelson said. "Several of them had cuts and bruises, but nothing looked serious. I could see the bus driver had a cut on her arm that was bleeding, but she wouldn't leave them. She didn't get off the bus until all the children were safely off."
As of Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Taylor, the driver of the pickup, was listed in good condition at Medical College of Georgia Hospital, a spokeswoman said.
He had just finished a graveyard shift at the Battle Lumber Co. and appears to have fallen asleep at the wheel, according to Trooper Anderson. A citation for driving on the wrong side of the road is pending, he said.
Another school bus took the children to Jefferson Hospital.