- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 27, 2003

VANDALIA, Ill. (AP) — A school bus veered off a winding rural road and overturned in a steep ravine yesterday, injuring 15 students and the driver, authorities said.

The road was repaved recently and a guardrail had not been replaced, said Montgomery County Sheriff Jim Vazzi. He said the ravine was so steep that rescue workers had to use ropes to get to the bus, which plunged about 15 feet.

“I saw kids climbing up the bank on their hands and knees,” said Fillmore Fire Chief Bill Wood, who was the first on the scene. “They were bleeding and obviously injured.”

Two students were flown to a hospital in Springfield. They were in critical condition, said Vandalia School Superintendent Garry Krutsinger.

The other students were taken to nearby hospitals, Sheriff Vazzi said. Seven were released, and the others were listed in good or stable condition, hospital officials said.

The 70-year-old driver underwent surgery for facial trauma, said Kim Shanks, spokeswoman at Fayette County Hospital in Vandalia.

At the accident scene, the driver was “covered in blood” but helped to remove children, Chief Wood said. “He wasn’t leaving until the last kid was out.”

State Police were investigating, Sheriff Vazzi said.

Linda Schulte of Mr. Krutsinger’s office said the students were of all ages from kindergarten through high school and were headed to school when the accident took place.

The Vandalia district has about 1,800 students. The crash site is near Van Burensburg, about 60 miles northeast of St. Louis.

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