CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said it has cited the driver of a school bus involved in a crash in north Charlotte Thursday morning.
The wreck happened just before 8:30 a.m. on Statesville Avenue near Moretz Avenue.
Channel 9 crews could see the bus off the side of the road and into what looked like a townhouse or condominium. Bricks and debris were scattered across the grass and the siding on the building was peeled back.
The school bus driver, identified by police as 35-year-old Lashandra Chere Williams, was cited for failure to maintain lane control.
Video Channel 9 obtained Friday shows a red car stopped at an intersection. The bus moves into the frame, appears to sideswipe the car and then moves out of the frame.
(Courtesy: S&T Express Mart)
Police said the investigation revealed the bus veered out of its lane and hit a 2018 Kia Optima in a turn lane. They said the bus then ran off the road and hit the building.
In a call to 911, the caller could be heard saying, "Police, a school bus just wrecked on Statesville, it's a school bus, it's full of kids."
Several children could be seen walking around outside the bus.
Channel 9's Gina Esposito reported that the scene was chaotic as parents arrived to find their children.
Police said the bus had just picked up some students a few blocks away moments before the crash and that another school bus driver witnessed it.
>> Reading this story in our app? The new "Follow the Lead" feature allows you to tap the blue tag indicated with a '+' to subscribe to alerts on the very latest breaking news updates.
Witnesses told Channel 9 the bus was heading north on Statesville Avenue when it appeared to lose control and veer into a car before swerving into the building.
We first updated WSOCTV news app users with a notification just before 8:45 a.m Thursday that the bus had crashed into a building. Download the WSOCTV news app for your smartphone and get updates on this developing story as they come in.
The witness said he watched as the rear emergency door opened on the bus and several students jumped out.
A student's mother, who happened to be driving by the scene said she saw the bus crash with the red car.
"I saw the bus and the car collide, and the bus come and go through the side of the resident's home. The car spun around into traffic. It appears the car was turning out, and I'm not sure if the bus hit it or overcorrected to not hit another car," the mother said.
It was not immediately known what may have caused the bus to crash but paramedics said there were no major injuries. MEDIC told Channel 9 their mass casualty bus was sent to the scene and that they were evaluating students for possible injuries.
Several people called 911 panicked after witnessing the crash.
(Click below to hear one of those 911 calls)
Channel 9 was told two students were taken to the hospital as a precaution at the request of their families.
Students on the bus who spoke with Channel 9 education reporter Elsa Gillis said something happened with the other car involved, and that the vehicle and school bus collided, sending the bus into the building.
"I was on my phone, felt a jolt (and) dirt was everywhere,” one student said. “We kept driving, then felt a bigger jolt (and we were) inside the house."
He said he didn't fully comprehend what happened until he got off the bus.
He said other students on the bus quickly started to panic.
"I was trying to figure out what was going on, but a kid just got up and said, 'I'm getting off the bus.' He was like the bus is about to tip over, and somebody said 'we could die' and they opened the door and everybody jumped out," the student said.
Eighth grader Jamyah Jones said the students on board didn't know what to do at first.
"It was scaring me. I didn't know what to do at first. We were screaming, the bus was also totaled so we had to try and get off the bus and get out the door," Jamyah said.
Jamyah Jones' mother Shareka Jones and grandmother Doretha Jones said they both came as soon as they received a call from her.
"My daughter called me and said they had been in a wreck. I'm expecting a little fender bender. I get here, the bus is through here. I'm definitely shaken up, but I'm glad my baby is OK," Shareka Jones said.
"I just thank God, all the children are fine. That's the main thing, all the children are fine but I'm still taking my grandchildren to the hospital to make sure they are thoroughly checked out," Doretha Jones said.
Parent Renee Sneed said her son told her on the phone he was OK, but she said she still had to see him in person.
"He got a small bump coming up on the top of his head," Sneed said. "Now I know he is, put my hands on him, eyes on him. The bus is through the building and my son was on the bus. That right there is enough, you don't know if he alright or not, until you get to him."
Statesville Avenue was closed while police investigated.
Chopper 9 Skyzoom was overhead within minutes and watched as crews carefully pulled the bus from the building with cables hours after the initial crash.
The Charlotte Fire Department said crews were able to stabilize the building so it wouldn't collapse. Two people and a pet were displaced from the home.
Officials with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools said the bus had 15 students on board and was heading to Ranson Middle School. The district said families of students on the bus were notified and arrangements were made for safe transportation home or to school.
Police said speed does not appear to be a factor in the crash. They also said there’s no evidence either driver was impaired.
CMS said the school bus driver was suspended with pay which is standard procedure.
The district released the following statement Friday:
"The safety and security of students and staff is always a top priority at CMS. The district is thankful that no serious injuries resulted from the accident involving bus #509 and grateful to emergency responders, law enforcement, CMS staff and families who responded quickly to meet the needs of students and the driver on board. Parents, students and staff should know that CMS will respond as needed to ensure that transportation safety remains top of mind for all our staff. The district will review the results of law enforcement investigation and act appropriately to help prevent future accidents and to maintain CMS’ existing daily high standard of safety."
© 2020 Cox Media Group