Crime & Courts

Police: School bus driver going too fast in wreck that injured 15

A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools bus driver who lost control of her vehicle while taking students to Randolph Middle School Tuesday was going too fast in a sharp curve, investigators announced on Friday.

The crash sent the bus down an embankment and into a house. The bus driver and 14 students were injured.

The bus driver, Lotoeya Trenise Patton, received a traffic citation for driving too fast for conditions.

Patton told investigators she swerved to avoid a cat on Briardale Drive. But Charlotte-Mecklenburg police downloaded GPS data from the bus as part of the investigation. The speed in the sharp curve is 10 mph and the bus was going 29 mph just before entering it, investigators said.

When the bus left the road, it was still going 23 mph, the investigation revealed. The road is marked with a sign that warns drivers about the sharp curve and cautions them to slow down.

The 14 injured students had mostly bumps and bruises, paramedics said. Eight other students on the bus were not hurt. All of them were allowed to make up any end-of-grade tests they were scheduled to take Tuesday morning.

“There was debris flying everywhere, and we hit a tree – one of the really big trees beside the house,” student Zachary Ennett, who was on the bus, told WBTV, the Observer’s news partner. “And it finally stopped us, but when I hit my head against the seat in front of me, I was dazed for a little bit. When I came to, the bus driver was bleeding on her face, and the windshields were bent in towards her.”

Joseph Whitehead was in his home when the bus hit it. The home sustained $96,000 in damage, according to the police report.

“I heard this huge, thunderous crash … (and) I heard the children screaming,” he said. “I opened the front door, and there was a school bus under my front deck.”

Cleve R. Wootson Jr.: 704-358-5046, @CleveWootson