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Union County school bus driver suspended without pay after crash

A Union County school bus driver was suspended without pay last week as the school district continues to investigate a January crash that injured 24 people, mostly students.

The students had mostly minor injuries from the Jan. 5 accident in Indian Trail, where the bus had hit a minivan. New details have emerged about the serious injuries sustained by the two people in the minivan driven by Stacie Pressley, 35, of Indian Trail.

She had multiple surgeries to deal with two broken legs, a lacerated liver and a broken arm, and did not wake up after one surgery for six days, N.C. Highway Patrol Trooper John Burgin said. “She’ll recover but she won’t be the same,” Burgin said.

And her 2-year-old daughter had a broken neck, he said.

Bus driver Jennifer Blake, 53, of Indian Trail, was cited Feb. 2 by the N.C. Highway Patrol for driving left of center and failing to maintain lane control, Burgin said. He said Blake has an attorney, John Painter of Monroe. Painter did not return a call seeking comment about the case.

Blake had been driving students to Piedmont Middle and High schools. While driving on a curve on the two-lane Unionville Indian Trail Road, authorities said Blake drove onto the northbound shoulder, overcorrected, traveled left of center, overturned and then hit the minivan.

Blake was suspended with pay after the accident, district spokeswoman Tahira Stalberte said. As of Feb. 3, she was suspended without pay, Stalberte said. That move happened the day after Blake was cited by the Highway Patrol.

Stalberte did not know when the district’s investigation would end. Blake has worked for the district since the start of the school year, Stalberte said.

There actually were two school bus crashes in Union County that day in January.

In the other case, two people were hurt in Wingate when a minivan crossed the center line and hit a bus with no students on it. The minivan driver was cited for driving left of center.

The bus driver, Sherri Leak, was suspended with pay after the accident while the district investigated, and that suspension was lifted Monday, Stalberte said. Leak was hired in January 2004.

Observer researcher Maria David contributed

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