School district: 26 hurt in 2 separate Union County bus accidents; 1 driver seriously injured

An inattentive school bus driver is the likely cause of one of two school bus accidents Monday morning in Union County, the N.C. Highway Patrol said.

A total of 24 people were hurt in a collision in Indian Trail, including 21 students who had minor injuries, school district spokeswoman Tahira Stalberte said. The bus had overturned and hit a van, whose driver sustained serious injuries, authorities said.

A separate Union school bus accident in Wingate injured two people, Highway Patrol Trooper John Burgin said. No students were on that bus, and the injuries were not life-threatening.

In the Indian Trail accident, the bus was taking students to Piedmont Middle and High School in Monroe.

Burgin and Highway Patrol Sgt. Michael Baker described what happened:

At 7:51 a.m., Jennifer Blake of Indian Trail was driving a school bus north on Unionville Indian Trail Road near Ridge Road, carrying 32 students. On a curve in the two-lane road, Blake drove onto the northbound shoulder, overcorrected and traveled left of the center line.

The bus then overturned and hit a Toyota minivan driving south on Unionville Indian Trail Road. The van driver, Stacie Pressley of Indian Trail, was airlifted to Carolinas Medical Center. She had several broken bones and other injuries, Burgin said.

A 2-year-old in Pressley’s van had minor injuries and was taken to CMC for evaluation, Baker said. Pressley’s condition at the hospital was not immediately available.

The bus driver and 20 students were taken to CMC-Union in Monroe, and another student was taken to CMC in Charlotte, Stalberte said. One of the students had a broken arm, while others had scrapes and bruises, County Manager Cindy Coto said.

Driver inattention appears to be the likely cause of the accident, Burgin said. Charges are pending, according to Baker.

The bus driver has worked for the district since September, Stalberte said.

The other school bus accident occurred at 7:31 a.m. on Austin Chaney Road near McIntyre Road in Wingate, according to authorities. That bus was for Forest Hills High in Marshville.

Mark Nathaniel Keeter of Wingate was driving a Dodge Caravan that crossed the center line and hit the bus, Burgin said. Keeter was taken to CMC in Charlotte. The bus driver had minor injuries, officials said.

Keeter was cited for driving left of center, Burgin said.

Stalberte said the school district will investigate both accidents, which is standard procedure.

In early December, a third Union school bus was involved in a fatal wreck. A school bus driver was killed after a garbage truck crossed a center line and hit the bus head-on. No students were on board.