RICHFIELD — A school bus carrying 39 Carey Junior High students and three adults rolled Tuesday on U.S. 26, injuring at least 14 children.
Some of the injuries were “substantial,” Lincoln County Sheriff Rene Rodriguez said, but none were expected to be life-threatening.
The crash happened about 12:20 p.m. at milepost 175 just west of Richfield as the junior high students headed to a track meet in Gooding.
The driver, Richard Mecham, 67, of Carey, was driving westbound when he went off the right shoulder, overcorrected, and rolled the bus, Idaho State Police said.
Mecham was not injured.
Five injured students were taken to hospitals by helicopter and seven in ambulances, police said. Several others were going to hospitals in personal vehicles.
A Times-News photographer at the scene said students were being carried off the bus on stretchers.
St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center in Twin Falls received six patients — two by air and four by ground ambulance, spokeswoman Michelle Bartlome said. Three patients were taken to St. Luke’s Wood River in Ketchum; Bartlome did not have information on patient conditions.
At least five patients went to North Canyon Medical Center in Gooding, spokeswoman Shellie Amundson said, though she didn’t know how they arrived or have information about their conditions.
Patients were also taken to Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello, the school district said in a statement.
Hunter Smith, 13, was listening to music and not paying close attention to the drive when the bus rolled, his mother, Teresa, told the Times-News. Hunter said the crash was over almost before he realized what was happening.
“The kids were thrown around in there,” Smith said. “Kids flew up out of their seats, and then they landed.”
Hunter was uninjured, though his mother reported he was sore afterward “like after the first day of football practice.” The eighth grader immediately jumped up to make sure his friends were OK.
“They were all just in shock,” Smith said.
Several drivers in other vehicles rushed to help — “people were wonderful,” Smith said — and emergency crews responded within minutes, Hunter told his mother.
Idaho State Police troopers are investigating, but authorities have not said what caused the driver to leave the road.
“I don’t have any clues right now,” Rodriguez said about 4:30 p.m.
The bus was headed westbound but ended up facing eastbound on the south side of the highway after rolling once and turning 180 degrees.
Principal John Peck went to the scene and Superintendent GwenCarol Holmes was at Carey School, district spokeswoman Heather Crocker said. Students who did not require treatment at hospitals were taken in a second bus back to the Carey school, where parents were asked to gather.
The highway was blocked for several hours in both directions as crews treated the injured, investigated and cleared the scene.
Smith said her heart dropped when she heard about the crash, but “Blaine County did a great job, and everyone at the school did a great job.”
She said she’s praying for those who were injured, but was glad their injuries were not life-threatening considering the circumstances.
“God was definitely watching over them,” she said, “and we are all very grateful for that.”