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

HAILEY — The Blaine County School District announced Wednesday night its transportation director has resigned following an April 18 school bus crash that injured Carey students.

Rex Squires resigned after he was presented with findings from an investigation, Superintendent GwenCarol Holmes told the Times-News on Thursday.

Holmes didn’t provide specifics about what the investigation revealed or Squires’ conduct.

The bus crash precipitated the investigation, she said, but it was broader and looked at the department’s overall operations.

The investigation revealed “a failure to follow internal procedures and our code of ethics in supervising drivers,” Holmes said in a statement Wednesday night.

The department wasn’t focusing on what’s important for protecting children, she told the Times-News.

Blaine County school officials are taking corrective action to ensure this doesn’t happen again, Holmes wrote in the statement. “The transportation director at the time of the accident is no longer employed by the district.”

Assistant superintendent John Blackman is taking over day-to-day transportation operations until a new director is hired.

The district continues to review its internal procedures, Holmes wrote in the statement. “We are re-emphasizing to our employees that compassion and concern for a fellow employee must never take precedence over our responsibilities for the safety of our students.”

Police said bus driver Richard Mecham, 67, of Carey was driving west on U.S. 26 when he drove off the right shoulder of the road, overcorrected and rolled the bus west of Richfield.

Students were traveling to a track meet in Gooding.

A collision report from Idaho State Police says Mecham was asleep, drowsy or fatigued while operating the school bus.

The report lists distraction as another contributing circumstance. Charges against Mecham are pending, the report says.

Mecham is no longer employed by the Blaine County School District.

On Wednesday, KBOI-TV reported the surveillance camera inside the bus was not working at the time of the crash.

The ISP report shows there was severe damage to the bus and the main points of impact were the top and windows.

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A dozen of the 39 Carey Junior High School students who were on the bus were hospitalized. All were released by the next afternoon.

All of the children who were injured are back in school, Holmes said, but there are still frequent doctor’s appointments for some to treat injuries such as fractures.

Two mental health therapists employed by the school district have conducted a screening of all students on the bus.

They’ve identified those who are working through trauma issues, Holmes said, whether or not they resulted from the bus crash. Those students are participating in a cognitive behavior therapy group twice a week.

School district officials also held a meeting Wednesday night with parents of the Carey children involved in the crash, Holmes said.

Parents learned about how the adolescent brain responds to trauma, warning signs to look for and ways to help children cope.

The district plans to screen children again in six months and 12 months.

Holmes said she’s thankful for the continued community support and how people have rallied around the Carey families affected.

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