Laidlaw Investigates Third Accident in Chatham County

If your children ride the bus to school, it's already been a rough year. In the last two weeks, Laidlaw school buses in Chatham County have been involved in three accidents.

The latest happened Thursday afternoon when a car rear-ended a school bus on Ferguson Avenue. Fortunately, no one was hurt. The bus company says they're reviewing each accident very carefully to make sure drivers are doing all they can to keep the 23,000 students they take to and from school every day safe.

Harley and Justice Pritchard were on their way home from Oglethorpe Academy when Thursday accident's happened. "We were sitting on the bus and all of a sudden we heard tires skid on the ground and then, I guess, they ran into us," explained Harley Pritchard.

"Everybody was looking behind the bus," added her brother, Justice. "I didn't know what they were looking at and I turned around and I found out we had crashed with a car and the car was under the bus."

"I could hear skidding," explained Audrey Baechle, who was also on the bus, "and I thought we ran over something. You could see the car was under the bus and there were a lot of cars backed up behind us."

Police believe a Ford Thunderbird crashed into an Oldsmobile Alero, smashing it right into the back of their bus on Ferguson Street. Their mother, Susan Pritchard, who was waiting for them and heard the crash, was more than a little alarmed.

"I was pretty nervous," she said, "but I did have a lady stop on Ferguson and ask me if my children were on there and she said everybody was fine."

The accident comes just after a school bus flipped over in Georgetown last week, sending a dozen students to the hospital. Two days later, another school bus was struck by a log that fell off a truck. No one was hurt, but parents, like Karen Richards, have had anxious moments.

"I was extremely nervous," explained Richards. "I left work immediately and came straight to the scene. My other concern, too, was this is my daughter's bus stop and if she had been getting off the bus, she could have been seriously injured."

Laidlaw officials say they're taking these concerns seriously. The company doesn't believe the driver was at fault in this accident, but they're looking at it very closely.

"Each accident is looked at on an individual basis," Laidlaw Branch Manager Rufus Smith told WTOC. "If the accident is the fault of the driver, that driver is put through retraining. The driver is given disciplinary actions. We re-create the accident and take the driver through the paces. Even if the driver is found not to be at fault, we still go through the accident with the driver to ask that question: Did you do everything that was possible? Then, we also review the accident with all our employees in our monthly safety meeting."

Parents and guardians who have comments, questions or complaints about their child's bus service can call Laidlaw at 201-5591. For complaints, please have your child's bus number and the date and time of any incident.