Drunk driver rams into school bus, flipping it and injuring 13 students, troopers say

Site of bus crash in Alexander County. Screenshot, Dave Faherty tweet
Site of bus crash in Alexander County. Screenshot, Dave Faherty tweet

The early morning bus crash that sent 13 middle school students to the hospital in Alexander County was caused by a drunk driver who ran the bus off the road, according to the North Carolina Highway Patrol.

It happened at 7:30 a.m. Monday in the Bethlehem community and there were 19 students on the bus at the time, reported the Alexander County Schools in a Facebook post. The site is about 60 miles northwest of Charlotte.

One of the people injured in the crash was in critical condition, reported the N.C. Highway Patrol. It was not made clear if the critically injured person was a student or one of the two adults involved in the crash.

The crash happened near the intersection of Icard Ridge Road and Bulldog Lane, said the school district.

Highway Patrol officials issued a press release saying the crash occurred when a Toyota traveling south on Icard Ridge Road crossed the center line and collided with the school bus, which ran off the road and overturned.

The driver of the Toyota was identified as Kimberly Ann Austin, 56, of Taylorsville, and she has been charged with driving while impaired and driving left of center, said the highway patrol. Results of the blood test were not released by the highway patrol.

A day later, troopers charged Austin with an additional two counts of misdemeanor child abuse: One for the students on the bus, and one for her own granddaughter, who was in the car with her during the crash, reported WBTV.

“The children were able to escape or be removed from the bus via the emergency exit door,” said the Highway Patrol press release.

WSOC reporter Dave Faherty tweeted that “most of the injuries (were) bumps and bruises, some broken bones.”

The bus flipped as it went down an embankment, reported NCFirefighters on Twitter. “One patient was extricated from vehicle,” said a tweet from NCFirefighters, adding that emergency vehicles from Alexander, Caldwell and Catawba responded.

The bus was headed to West Alexander Middle School when it crashed, said the school district’s Facebook post.

Six students from the bus went back to school, after being treated for minor injuries, according to the N.C. Highway Patrol. The bus driver was also hospitalized, said the school district’s post.

Austin was taken to Frye Regional Medical Center for treatment of undisclosed injuries, said the N.C. Highway Patrol.

“The case, as well as the results of the blood test, will be reviewed in consultation with the District Attorney’s office to determine if further charges are warranted,” said a highway patrol press release.