Students injured in ASt. Mary Parish school bus wreck

PATTERSON, La. -- Eleven children were treated for injuries after the St. Mary Parish school bus they were riding was struck in the rear by a garbage truck at about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday on La. 182 near Zenor Road west of Patterson.

Tfc. Stephen Hammons, a Troop I spokesman, said the injuries were minor. In addition to the children, the bus driver, John Rentrop, 59, of Patterson was taken to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries, he said.

Most of the students on the bus were from Hattie Watts Elementary School.

Niki Fryou, principal of the school, said there were 16 students on the bus, and three were from middle and high schools.

“We have a possible broken arm, one with a lacerated head, one having observation,” she said.

One student was transferred to Children’s Hospital in New Orleans for observation after throwing up. “They were concerned that locally we didn’t have a pediatric surgeon so if there was something they wanted him there,” she said.

“I can tell you there was definitely a Hattie Watts angel watching over our children, no doubt,” Fryou said.

Fryou said the students at the kindergarten through fourth-grade school were addressed this morning about the wreck.

“We talked about bus safety with the whole school and talked about how important it is that their bottoms stay on their seat and they are facing forward,” she said. “That is how the buses are built to protect them. We were very fortunate that those 16 children were very brave and well-behaved and the reason we have minimal injuries is because the bus driver puts them in a seat assignment. They move from the back so that nobody is in the back as the kids get off and they are seated on their bottoms.”

Donald Aguillard, superintendent of schools, also praised the bus driver and the practice of moving students out of rear seats is going to be studied.

“I thought the first responders did an outstanding job at that site,” Aguillard said.

“They were responding to the needs of the children and in a lot of cases were assuring the children they were OK,” he said. “I was impressed with the protocol that was used by the first responders.”

He added, “If you guys had anybody who took a picture of the bus I think it speaks volumes as to what could have been a markedly different ending of that accident.”

Hammons said the garbage truck driver, Jermaine Harding, 31, of Jeanerette was not injured in the wreck, but was cited for careless operation.

“The bus driver had just dropped off a student and was beginning to proceed forward,” Hammons said. “At that point the lights are off. The lights are only on when it is stopped. It was beginning to proceed forward when Mr. Harding approached the bus from the rear.”

The truck’s front right side struck the left rear of the bus, he said

“After impacting the bus, the truck went off the roadway to the left and rolled on its side,” Hammons said.

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