- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A 10-year-old Culpeper County, Va. girl on the way to her first day of middle school was struck and killed by a school bus yesterday morning.

Emily Nicole Woodward, a sixth-grader at Floyd T. Binns Middle School, was hit by the bus at Birch Drive and Elmwood Drive in Culpeper about 7 a.m. Police said the girl apparently ran in front of the bus as it made a right turn onto Elmwood.

The bus driver, Gretchen Yates, was taken to Culpeper Regional Hospital because she was so distraught. She was later released. As of last night, no charges had been filed.

Witnesses told the Culpeper Star-Exponent that Emily was running to catch the bus when she tripped and became pinned under its tires. They said Emily’s mother, Diane Katcher, saw the accident.

“First thing I heard this morning was, ‘Oh, my baby. My baby, she’s under the school bus,’” witness Brian Morris, 22, told the Star-Exponent.

“Her leg was caught up in the back left tire,” he said, “and her backpack was wrapped around her neck like three or four times.”

When reached at home last night, Mrs. Katcher told The Washington Times that she did not want to talk to reporters about the accident.

“All I know is I lost my baby today and I don’t want to say nothing,” she said, choking back tears.

School officials said they were devastated by the news.

“There is nothing more precious than the life of a child, and we are deeply saddened,” said school Superintendent David Cox.

“Our school division and our school family is heartbroken,” schools spokeswoman Marla McKenna said. “Culpeper is a small, tight-knit community. Our families, students and employees are all devastated by this tragedy.”

Accident reconstruction teams with the Culpeper Police Department and the Virginia State Police were investigating the accident yesterday.

Emily was pronounced dead at the Culpeper Regional Hospital. School officials said eight other students were on the bus at the time of the accident.

Miss Yates has been driving for the school system for 25 years without incident, Mrs. McKenna said.

Emily attended Sycamore Park Elementary School in Culpeper last year and would have turned 11 next month.

R. Russell Houck, principal of Sycamore Park, described her as a “good student” and “a happy girl who never got in trouble and was pleasant to be around.”

Classes did not dismiss early yesterday at Binns Middle, which has an enrollment of 700 students, but parents were told they could take their children home early if they wanted.

Grief counselors were provided for students who were on the bus that struck Emily and at the school. School officials sent a letter home to parents in which Mr. Cox explained the incident and the school system’s response.

The county has about 6,500 students.

Mrs. McKenna said the school district’s last fatality involving a school bus and a student was in the 1980s near one of the county’s elementary schools.

In April, two Arlington County students were killed after the school bus they were on collided with a garbage truck.

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