Photo courtesy Jennifer Storicks Perdian
LAKE PLACID (FOX 13) - A school bus flipped on its side after a crash with a semi, which smashed into pieces. The 39 students on the bus all got out alive. As bad as the crash was, it could have been so much worse.
The crash happened on U.S. 27 near Lake Ridge Drive in Lake Placid this morning as the bus stopped to pick up students. Parents say that bus stop, right on the highway, needs to move.
Nineteen students and the bus driver, 59-year-old Selena Hawthorne, were brought to Florida Hospital with non-severe injuries. They have all since been released.
But two other students on the bus were hurt badly enough to need to be airlifted to Tampa General.
An off-duty nurse happened to be one of the first people on the scene. Jennifer Perdian's instinct as both a mother and a nurse kicked into high gear Wednesday morning.
“My kids, when they rode that school bus, they rode in the back seat. That's where they were. If my kids still rode that bus, that would have been my kids they were taking out of the back," Perdian said.
As she finished her shift at Florida Hospital, she learned a semi-truck had crashed into the back of a school bus loaded with students on U.S. 27, just minutes from her home in Lake Placid.
"Immediately I dropped everything, and I'm like, ‘I got to go,’" she said. "One of the EMS workers was like, 'My truck is right there. The supplies are in it. Have at it,' So I started triage, and we just divided the kids that were injured and the kids that were OK.”
Perdian got to the scene to find 39 students, believed to be in high school, being taken off a Highlands County school bus. Two of the students, she says, had broken bones and had to be airlifted to Tampa General Hospital. They were alert and talking.
According to Florida Highway Patrol, the bus was stopped, picking up students, when the semi-truck out of Orlando rammed into its tail end. The bus was pushed into a wooded area and flipped over on its side.
"The patients began to trickle in. Some came by ambulance. Some came by vehicle with their parents," Florida Hospital Administrator Denise Grimsley said.
Perdian says U.S. 27 is a dangerous highway. It's the reason she stopped letting her children ride the school bus.
She fears another accident could happen if the school bus stop isn't moved to a safer road.
"I mean, they have the bus stop on the highway. You know, right in the middle of nowhere. There's no turn off. We all knew this was going to eventually happen. The bus driver, that's one thing she kept saying over and over again, I knew this was going to happen, I knew this was going to happen, I've told them," Perdian said.
The Highlands County School District says changing the school bus stop hasn't been addressed yet. The school transportation department has not returned a call from FOX 13 News.