Bus crash carrying Carey Jr. High athletes

Emergency personnel are shown at the scene of a bus crash April 18 west of Richfield. The bus was carrying children from Carey Jr. High who were on the way to a track meet.

DREW NASH, TIMES-NEWS FILE PHOTO

RICHFIELD — A collision report from Idaho State Police says the driver that caused a crash that injured more than a dozen children was asleep, drowsy or fatigued, contributing to the crash.

The report lists distraction as another contributing circumstance to the April 18 crash. Charges against the driver, Richard Mecham, are pending, the report says.

Mecham is no longer employed by the school district, Superintendent GwenCarol Holmes wrote in a letter Thursday to students, parents and community members.

Police said Mecham, 67, of Carey, was driving west on U.S. 26 when he drove off the right shoulder of the road, over-corrected and rolled the bus. The report shows there was severe damage to the bus and that the main points of impact were the top and windows.

“We are cooperating fully with Idaho State Police in the investigation of the crash,” she wrote. “Transporting our students safely is a major responsibility of the district, and one that we take very seriously.”

The school district is “saddened and shocked” by the incident, Holmes wrote, and is reviewing internal policies and procedures about transportation “to see if there is any way it might have been prevented. Any employee who compromises student safety will be terminated.

“Our hearts go out to our students and their families. We will continue to do everything we can to help them heal both physically and emotionally. We appreciate the outpouring of support from the community, and we are grateful to the members of the emergency medical community, police officers and passing motorists who responded to help so quickly.”

Twelve of the 39 Carey Junior High School students who were on the bus were hospitalized after it rolled west of Richfield on its way to a track meet in Gooding, ISP said. All were released by the next afternoon.

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“Students heard the coach yell at the driver ‘hey, hey, hey!’ right before the bus flipped,” parent Cindy Stocking of Carey told The Associated Press via text message.

A day after the crash, ISP Trooper Michael Hausauer said the crash reconstruction could take more than a month, and police would turn everything they have gathered over to the Lincoln County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office when the investigation is done.

Mecham was uninjured, and the adult chaperones on the bus were treated and released at the scene. Mecham was put on paid leave during the investigation.

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