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Bus Accident Remains Under Investigation

GSP expects report to be available later this week. Mill Creek principal says field trip protocols to be updated.

The Georgia State Patrol is still investigating an April 10 bus accident that injured 20 people, including 17 Mill Creek High School students.

GSP spokesman Gordy Wright expects the report to be available later this week.

A total of 52 people, including 47 Mill Creek students, were on the bus at the time of the accident. The accident occurred shortly after 3 p.m. Sunday on I-75 northbound near mile marker 116 in Dooly County as the students were returning from a chorus group competition at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

Wright said a rear end collision occurred in the left lane of travel ahead of the bus. One of the vehicles from that accident was pushed into the path of the tour bus. The tour bus operator swerved to avoid the vehicle, ran off the roadway and up an embankment striking an overpass.

The accident occurred in a construction zone. Wright said the speed limit in the stretch of interstate where the accident occurred is 70 m.p.h.  Investigators have not yet determined how fast the bus was traveling at the time of the accident.

After the accident, the uninjured students were transported to the Dooly County Sheriff’s Office to await alternative transportation while parent chaperones began contacting parents -- an effort school officials say was made more difficult by the fact that one of the teachers was among those injured.

“On field trips, the adults are typically the individuals who handle emergencies and contacting parents. But in this case our teacher was one of the injured,” said Jorge Quintana, director of media relations for Gwinnett County Public Schools. “Therefore, the parent chaperones started contacting other parents on Sunday at the same time that students were calling directly from their cell phones. Parents here in Gwinnett County were very instrumental in assisting with communication as well. We're very lucky in Gwinnett to have such involved and supportive parents who then contacted other parents.”

Mill Creek principal Dr. Jim Markham was in touch with parent chaperones on Sunday and spoke with parents of injured students throughout the day on Monday. Markham said the school did not have a list of students who were on the bus at the time of the accident due to the fact the list was with the choral teacher. Markham said the emergency contact list is maintained by the trip coach or sponsor.

“Frankly, we typically have not had a list of the students on the trip, just the trip information itself back at the school,” Markham wrote in emailed response to questions.

Initial efforts to reach parents after the wreck were complicated by the fact the emergency contact information was turned over to police investigating the accident. Markham said field trip protocol would be updated to ensure a copy of the emergency contact information is kept on file at the school.

Markham said the trip was sponsored by the Mill Creek choral boosters and was sanctioned by the school to the extent the students were competing in Mill Creek’s name. All emergency contact notification policies were followed, he added.

Latabia Woodward April 14, 2011 at 11:13 AM
Dr. Markham did a great job under the circumstances. I'm glad he is being practical and updating the policy instead of having a knee-jerk reaction and shutting down field trips. Way to go! We're lucky to have great leaders in education in Gwinnett. In terms of the bus company, I'm confident the driver did his/her best to avoid the accident. It's unfortunate people were injured anyway. Thank God everyone survived.
tanya parke April 14, 2011 at 05:15 PM
well i am one of the parnets of one of those teenagers on the bus and no one contacted me until 12.30 tuesday afternoon . so i dont think eveything was done right my daughter had called me . how is that supposed to me feel when she was in adults hands . i get calls when my son is in trouble but no calls when my daughter was in a wreack.the school should have known who was on that bus no questions ask.
Hope Thompson April 14, 2011 at 07:50 PM
Latabia , your right Dr Markham did a good job under the circumstances . I have worked at Mill Creek for 3 years an Dr Markham is the best principal i have worked for . If Dr Markham says there will be changes then he will make sure there changed , he is a man of his word . The booster club did their best also , My Daughters , 1 senior 1junior that have been on Chorus trips , i even went with them last year , they are good parents. When your contact list's are thrown around after a wreck and they won't let you back on the bus to get it cause of your safety and your teacher is injured. They did their best with help of parents and kids to call for them ..They were in shock also . Id trust my girls with them on another field trip and id even go with them ! We have 150 awsome singers and a wonderful teacher and booster club ..

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