Metro

Students injured after I-95 school bus crash

Waltham, MA - January 11, 2017: A school bus rolled over a guardrail Wednesday afternoon on Interstate 95 in Waltham while carrying students from Ephraim Curtis Middle School in Sudbury, according to State Police. in Waltham, MA on January 11, 2017. (Globe staff photo / Craig F. Walker) section: Business reporter:
craig f. walker/globe staff
A school bus rolled over a guardrail Wednesday afternoon on Interstate 95 in Waltham while carrying students from Ephraim Curtis Middle School in Sudbury.

WESTON — Jaira Pimentel and her friends on the school bus were chatting and playing on their phones when the sixth grader saw something veering toward them. The next thing she knew, the bus had barreled through an Interstate 95 guardrail and rolled onto its side.

For a moment, panic took hold.

“We were all scared,” said Jaira, who was sitting on the driver’s side of the bus. “It was like we were going to die. We thought we were going to die. We were all screaming.”

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But the bus came to rest against an outcropping of rock just beyond the highway’s southbound lanes. Some students spilled from their seats, but no one sustained more than minor injuries, officials said.

The bus was taking students in the Metco program home to Boston after an early-release day at Sudbury’s Ephraim Curtis Middle School Wednesday when a 2016 Chevrolet Silverado collided with it shortly before 1 p.m., State Police said.

The accident happened on the southbound side of the highway near the Weston-Waltham line.

Firefighters and paramedics racing to the call thought they might need to rescue injured children from wreckage and were relieved to find that no one was badly hurt, officials said.

“At this point, everything seems minor in nature,” Waltham Fire Chief Paul J. Ciccone said. “From the looks of it, we’re very fortunate.”

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Weston Fire Chief David B. Soar said first responders felt extremely lucky that the crash caused no serious injuries.

“Considering what it was, it went about as good as it could go,” he said.

The bus driver and bus monitor — 54-year-old men from Everett and Mattapan, respectively — and all 22 students had gotten out of the bus by the time State Police arrived to find the bus tipped at a roughly 45 degree angle against the rocks.

Ten of the students were taken to area hospitals with minor injuries, while the other 12 and the two men were taken to hospitals as a precaution. They were all expected to be released by Wednesday evening, State Police said.

The Silverado, a pickup truck, was driven by a 29-year-old Belmont man. Police did not immediately identify him or the bus driver, citing an ongoing investigation. No charges had been filed as of Wednesday evening.

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A spokeswoman for the bus company, Ohio-based First Student, said the bus driver has worked for them for 11 years, with a clean record and no incidents on file.

“We are thankful no one was seriously hurt,” said Jen Biddinger, a First Student spokeswoman. “There is nothing more important than the safety of the students we transport.”

In a message to the school community, Sudbury superintendent Anne Wilson thanked police, firefighters, and rescuers and expressed gratitude that no one was seriously injured. She said students were sent to hospitals — Newton-Wellesley, Boston Children’s, and St. Elizabeth’s — “out of an abundance of caution.”

“Sudbury Public Schools has sent faculty, staff, and administrators to the three area hospitals to assist our students and work directly with affected families,” Wilson wrote. “We will provide whatever resources are needed by our students and families.”

As she left Newton-Wellesley Hospital Wednesday afternoon, Jaira shivered in a T-shirt while walking to her car with her mother. Her jacket and bag remained on the bus, which lay on the side of the highway until after 4 p.m. As police closed two lanes, traffic backed up in both directions, with drivers straining to glimpse the bus’s open rear exit and damaged front end, its grille dangling.

JONATHAN WIGGS/GLOBE STAFF
Crew worked to remove a chool bus that left the road on Interstate 95 on Wednesday.

Jaira said that she and her friends were shaken up, and that they were worried about their longtime bus driver.

“He’s been their driver since they were little,” her mother, Yakaira Bernabel, said. “He’s really good.”

Bernabel said that her daughter called her immediately after the crash, and that she initially pictured a fender-bender. Then she saw photos online of the damaged, tipped bus.

“I was just going crazy, but thankfully everyone is safe,” she said.

Hyacinth McLaren, business manager and interim associate director of Metco, the suburban-school desegregation program, said she spent the afternoon gathering information and talking to parents.

“The kids are doing OK,” she said. “They have some cuts and bruises, but they’re OK.”

Outside the Sudbury middle school, eighth-grader Allison Rossillo said she was startled by initial texts from friends on the bus, but reassured by later updates. Angela Crocker, a Sudbury parent, called the school “a very close-knit community.”

“I’m thinking of the families involved and the bus driver and anybody on the bus,” she said. “When anything like this comes, I think we’re all rooting for those who are affected.”

12buscrash - Waltham firefighters responded on Wednesday after a school bus rolled over on I-95 southbound in our city. (Peter Lobo/Waltham Fire Department)
Peter Lobo/Waltham Fire Department
Firefighters responded on Wednesday after a school bus rolled over on I-95 southbound.

Andy Rosen of the Globe staff and Globe correspondents Maddie Kilgannon and John Hilliard contributed to this report. Eric Moskowitz can be reached at eric.moskowitz@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeMoskowitz.