LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A school bus crashed over an embankment and landed on its side Monday morning in rural Kentucky, sending 18 children and the driver to hospitals with injuries ranging from minor to severe, authorities said Monday.
Pupils from elementary age through high school were aboard the bus en route to classes when the crash occurred on a state highway near Salyersville in eastern Kentucky, said Superintendent Chris Meadows of Magoffin County Schools.
No other vehicles were involved.
Meadows spoke of varying injuries from minor to critical at an afternoon news conference and reported a mix of emotions in the school district afterward. While it has been quiet and sad, he said, officials are thankful that there aren’t any fatalities to report at this time.
“All of these families, these students and this driver, they are in our thoughts and prayers,” Meadows said, adding officials were following up with families and doing everything possible to help them.
When first responders arrived, some of the students had already climbed up the embankment and others were then helped up the hill with ropes and baskets, Salyersville Fire Chief Paul Howard said.
Gov. Andy Beshear said in a tweet that Kentucky State Police were on the scene, and “we are responding swiftly.”
The bus exited state Route 40 near Salyersville and went over an embankment, state Trooper Michael Coleman said.
It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the crash. “We’re really in the beginning stages of the investigation,” Coleman said, adding the road was expected to remain shut for several hours.
Some of the injured were flown from the crash by helicopter and others were taken by ambulances and private vehicles, officials said. Updated conditions were not immediately available.
There has been discussion about the possibility of a guard rail in the area where the crash happened, but water and sewer lines under the roadway have created barriers to moving forward, Magoffin Judge Executive Matt Wireman said.
He said several crashes have been reported in the general area over the years.
“That’s typical in any rural area where you have a lot of winding roads,” he said
The school bus did not have seat belts, Meadows said.
The National Transportation Safety Board renewed a call earlier this month for adding seat belts on school buses after completing an investigation of a 2020 crash in Tennessee that killed the driver and a 7-year-old girl.
U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul joined state and local officials in offering prayers for the families involved.