Originally created 01/10/01

Child crushed by school bus



A 5-year-old girl was killed Tuesday afternoon after being crushed beneath the wheel of a school bus at a Martinez bus stop.

Aleana Johnson, 5, a pupil at Westmont Elementary School, was pronounced dead at the scene, said Columbia County Coroner Tommy King Sr.

The accident occurred on Highview Drive just behind the Bi-Lo grocery store on Columbia Road about 3:45 p.m., Mr. King said.

The body will be sent to the state crime lab in Atlanta, Mr. King said.

school official said they will do what they can to help Westmont pupils when they return to class Wednesday.

"We're going to meet in the morning," Charles Nagle, an assistant school superintendent, said Tuesday night. "We've already been in touch with psychological services and we're going to coordinate with individual counselors to go over to the school."

Mr. Nagle said after the accident was discovered, the other children riding the bus - he didn't know how many - were kept on board and a second bus was called to take them home. All the parents of the children were notified immediately, he said.

Mr. Nagle said he did not know how the youngsters reacted. "From what I understand," he said, "they were very quiet and were following directions."

Mr. Nagle said sheriff's deputies told him the accident occurred at the rear of the bus.

He refused to identify the bus driver, but said he was drug-tested and that was apparently not a factor. He said the incident has been ruled an accident, so there will be no discipline against the driver. He will be given time off and counseling, Mr. Nagle said.

"As far as we know, all procedures were followed," Mr. Nagle said. "We haven't done an investigation. We will get the report back from Sheriff's Department before we know how to proceed."

School Superintendent Tommy Price called the accident a tragedy.

"It's one of those things you hope and pray will never happen. At this point our thoughts and prayers area with the family. It's a tragedy of immeasurable proportion," he said.