CAMDEN — A vehicle being pursued by law enforcement on U.S. Highway 158 Wednesday collided with a loaded Camden County school bus, sending one student aboard the bus to the hospital for evaluation by medical personnel.
The driver of the light blue BMW that collided with Bus 86 was taken by ambulance to Sentara Albemarle Hospital. According to law enforcement officials, a helicopter was prepared to transport the driver to another hospital.
Camden County Schools Superintendent Joe Ferrell said Bus 86 had 50 students and a driver aboard when the collision occurred near the intersection of U.S. Highway 158 and Gumberry Road. All of the students were either from Grandy Primary or Camden Intermediate School.
Ferrell said one student aboard the bus was “disoriented” after the collision but walked of his own accord to an ambulance and was transported to Sentara Albemarle Medical Center for evaluation.
“The student’s parents have been contacted and are going to meet them at the hospital,” he said.
Ferrell said later that at least one other student was transported by a parent to the hospital for evaluation.
Ferrell said the driver of the bus was “a little shaken up” by the collision but was “doing fine.”
Trooper J.N. Wood of the N.C. Highway Patrol said the BMW was being chased by Currituck County authorities and the Camden Sheriff’s Office took over the chase after the vehicle crossed into Camden. According to Wood, the BMW’s speed at times reached 120-125 mph.
The Camden deputy stopped pursuit shortly before the collision occurred after Camden Sheriff Kevin Jones expressed concern about a high-speed chase approaching the area around the high school, Wood said.
The bus was pulling out of Gumberry Road onto U.S. 158 when it was struck by the BMW, Wood said.
Ferrell said the vehicle appeared to collide with the driver’s side of the bus and that the bus appeared to be undrivable.
Lane said Bus 86 will be checked out by the district’s transportation department but it appears to be totaled.
Patrol officials couldn’t be immediately reached for information about the BMW driver. Ferrell said it’s his understanding the driver was handcuffed and transported by EMS from the scene.
School officials initially were going to transport the students back to the two schools but decided instead to have them get off the bus and walk across the street to the Tidewater Agronomics building at 133 Gumberry Road.
Camden Schools Chief Student Services Officer Lane said the plan to transport students to the school on a different bus was canceled after the students said they didn’t want to get back on a bus.
School officials contacted parents and directed them to the Tidewater Agronomics building to pick up their children.
Lane said the owners of the business were extremely gracious and accommodating in allowing the building to be used as a reunification site. She the building was selected because it was so close to where the crash occurred.
Camden Board of Education members Chris Purcell and Christian Overton assisted with traffic control at the entrance to the reunification site.
One parent who asked that her name not be used said she was concerned that parents were not notified sooner.
Lane said parents were notified as soon as a plan was in place. The notification took a little longer than it might have otherwise because the original reunification plan was dropped in favor of using the Tidewater Agronomics building.
Law enforcement officials closed U.S. 158 eastbound and westbound near the accident scene but announced around 4:30 p.m. that they were reopening westbound U.S. 158 to traffic.