Bus driver charged after train crashes into school bus in Rockingham County
HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Virginia State Police have cited a Rockingham County school bus driver after a train crashed into a bus on Wednesday afternoon.
Officials said around 3:30p.m., a train crashed into the bus at the intersection of Rt. 340 and Island Ford Road. Superintendent Oskar Scheikl said 16 students were on board the McGaheysville Elementary School bus and four were transported to Sentara RMH with minor injuries.
“Please keep the families of those affected in your thoughts,” Scheikl said.
Virginia State Police said the bus was stopped on Island Ford Road when it stopped at a stop sign with the rear of the bus partially hanging over the nearby train tracks. According to VSP, the railroad crossing arms descended and the rear of the bus was struck by a Norfolk Southern freight train. The train was unable to stop in time.
The driver of the bus, James A. Kite, 70, of Elkton, Va., was not injured in the crash. Kite was charged with failure to obey a traffic control device/railroad crossing sign.
Norfolk Southern, the owner of the train, released the following statement after sending investigators to the scene:
“Norfolk Southern personnel are working with authorities on-scene and will continue to do so as the investigation unfolds. We’re grateful for the quick action by first responders and that the reported injuries are minor.
We believe that the crew appropriately sounded the horn and that the train was traveling under the speed limit for the area. Further, we understand that the crossing lights and gates were properly activated.”
State police was able to look at footage on the train which showed they did everything they could to avoid the crash, but with something so heavy and large, they can only stop so fast.
VSP said the conductor and engineer were the only occupants on the the train and neither were injured in the crash.
Rockingham County Fire Chief Jeremy Holloway said he was proud of his team and its response Wednesday afternoon. He said some firefighters switched gears to drive ambulances.
“When the crews got there today, they went in, analyzed what injuries do we have, who can walk, who is wounded,” Holloway said. “We were very fortunate today we did not have what we consider life-threatening injuries on the event.”
1st Sgt. Brian Breeden said the intersection there is dangerous as there have been several crashes reported in that area.
According to DMV, there have been 13 crashes, 12 injuries and one fatality reported at the intersection of Island Ford Road and route 340 in the past 5 years.
There has only been one other train-related crash since 2017.
That happened in August of this year, involving a vehicle. No injuries were reported.
“VDOT has erected some warning lights there for that intersection for traffic going in every direction, and also, of course, you never want to stop over top of the railroad tracks with any part of your vehicle, so it’s always good to be cognizant of where you’re situated on the roadway,” Sgt. Breeden said.
With the bus driver being charged state police said that basically wraps up their investigation, and it’s now in the hands of the court.
Norfolk Southern said once its investigation is complete, it will be reported to the federal railroad administration.
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