Investigators are returning to the scene of an accident Wednesday hoping to determine what led to the death of a 5-year-old girl.
Tragedy struck early Tuesday morning in Liberty County when a school bus traveled approximately 1,000 feet with its right side wheels in a ditch before striking a tree, killing one child and injuring more than 20 others as well as the driver.
Five-year-old Cambria Shuman was the fatally injured child. The bus was on its way to Taylors Creek Elementary School at the time of the accident.
“Around 10 minutes after 7 a.m. I received a phone call that one of our buses was involved in an accident,” Larry Logan with the Liberty County Emergency Management Agency said. “Upon arrival, we found that there were possible multiple injuries to children injured on the bus and we also found out through our coroner that we had one fatal injury. It was very unfortunate.”
The Georgia State Patrol Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team (SCRT) is investigating the accident. GSP Lt. Thornell King viewed video taken from cameras in the bus.
“The Liberty County School Board has been very helpful. They are forthcoming with everything. They are not hiding anything. When I looked at the video, it didn’t appear that the driver suffered any medical condition because she tried to get control of the bus before it made impact with the tree,” he said.
Additionally, the driver, Evelyn Rodriquez, did not appear to be in any hurry to complete her route.
“I watched the video from where she picked up the kids to the end and she was very attentive. One little boy was at the door, brushing his feet for much longer than he needed to, he had a new lunchbox and she said ‘that’s a pretty lunchbox’ and she commented on another little girl with a new shirt so it wasn’t like she was in any kind of rush trying to get from one spot to another,” said King.
King added there were no indications Rodriquez swerved to avoid hitting something
“We couldn’t see it from a front camera angle anything like that. But she didn’t panic or scream that something came out (in front of the bus). And you can see that there weren’t any headlights that came toward her. She is a seven-year veteran and they had nothing but high praise for her driving,” King said.
In total, there were 23 people on the bus when it crashed on Ray Road near the intersection of Ga. 196 West. Ray Road is a dirt road.
The injured were transported to Wynn Army Hospital and Liberty County Regional Medical Center. Rodriquez was transported to Memorial University Medical Center by ambulance.
The extent of all the injuries was not immediately known.
“A lot of them were shaken up. A lot of them were walking wounded which means they were able to walk away from the bus accident but still they were injured,” Logan said shortly after the accident.
King said late Tuesday afternoon his understanding was that most had been treated and released.
A statement released by Liberty County Regional Medical Center CEO Michael Hester said 11 children ranging in age from 4-11 had been treated at the hospital. All those treated had minor injuries, scrapes and bruises and have all been discharged except one who was transferred. Hester did not give a reason for the transfer.
King said the GSP hopes to learn more about the accident Wednesday morning.
“We are going in the morning. Our SCRT team will download the box that tells you whether she was on the brakes, whether she was accelerating or whatever before impact. That will kind of give us an indication. In the video you can’t tell at what speed she was traveling but from the look of my eye with my 33 years of experience during the route she was not exceeding the speed limit or driving very fast. She kept her eyes on the road,” he said.
After the accident, the Liberty County School System posted this statement on its website:
“This morning a Liberty County school bus was involved in a single vehicle accident, which resulted in one student fatality. Our thoughts and prayers are with the student’s family in their time of grief. The remaining students and driver were transported to local hospitals. Grief counselors have been made available to all students and staff. The bus accident is currently under investigation by the Georgia State Patrol. The Liberty County School System asks the community to join them in continued thoughts, prayers and support for all individuals affected by today’s accident.”
Video from the scene showed the bus with its right side wheels in the ditch, the right side of the bus resting against a large tree, a break in the exterior running up to the roof between the third and fourth left side windows and the right front of the bus crumpled.