NESS COUNTY — A Western Plains bus driver certified as a EMT is being hailed as a heroine following a bus accident in northern Ness County Friday morning.
Two people were airlifted to Wichita and more than a dozen Western Plains students and adults were transported to Ness County Hospital and Grisell Memorial Hospital in Ransom after an early-morning traffic accident.
Kansas Highway patrol spokesman Mark Engholm reported a Western Plains USD 106 school bus collided with an SUV driven by Ransom’s Lynn Sargent, 49, at the intersection of Union Road and County Road 240 in Ness County. The bus rolled over, injuring 14, including 12 students on the bus. He said the driver of the SUV was reported in critical condition.
Two injured people were transported to Hays and Dodge City, and subsequently airlifted to Wichita, according to hospital officials.
Roger Stumpf, Western Plains USD 106 superintendent, said the quick response by bus driver Jackie Casey of McCracken helped calm students in an emergency situation. Bus drivers are required to pass state certification for driver safety and first aid.
“But Jackie might be the best qualified bus driver in the state because she’s a licensed EMT,” Stumpf said. “I can’t say enough about her ability and conduct in an emergency situation. She called 911 and started administering first aid immediately. I consider her actions heroic. She handed the situation at the scene the best you could ever hope for.”
Stumpf said the students ranged from kindergarten to a senior in high school. There were two more stops on the route when the accident occurred.
Stumpf said a message posted on the district web site explained the situation to patrons. He said announcements were made at the district’s three schools. School personnel talked to students who wanted to visit about the accident, but no additional counseling was called upon.
Western Plains is a unified school district for the towns of Arnold, Bazine, Brownell, Ransom and Utica.
“Our students handled the situation as well as you could expect,” he said. “You never want this to happen. But everyone involved performed admirably. We’re sending out our thoughts and prayers to all those who were involved.”
Students injured were Jennifer Ford, 6, Brownell; Timothy Hair, Brownell, 7; Charlee Flax, 9, Ransom; Harleigh Flax, 9, Ransom; Hannah Hair, 10, Brownell; Gordon Sargent, 11, Ransom; Dylan Flax, 11, Ransom; Rachel Cofer, 11, Ransom; Katie Sargent, 12, Ransom; Selena Shelton, 12, Brownell; Drake Wentz, 15, Ransom; Brett Skinner, 17, Brownell; and Amber Richardson, 18, Brownell.
The injured parties were unable to be transported by air ambulance at the scene because of high winds up to 50 miles per hour reported Friday morning,
Kyle Hahn, administrator at Ness County Hospital, reported two adults and five students were treated at the Ness City hospital. He said an injured driver was driven to Dodge City, 54 miles from Ness City, and airlifted to Wichita.
“We had all our nurses come in and I was really proud our staff, who knew exactly how to handle an emergency situation,” Hahn said.
Kris Ochs, administrator at Grisell Memorial Hospital, said eight people were transported to the Ransom hospital. She said two injured people were transferred to the Hays Medical Center, 62 miles from Ransom, and one injured student was airlifted to Wichita. Stumpf expected the student to be released Saturday.
Ochs said it is rare when a rural hospital handles multiple injuries.
“I’ve worked here since 1974 and it’s the most injured people we’ve treated at one time,” she said. “I was proud everyone handled their responsibilities superbly.”
The Kansas Highway Patrol reported the accident occurred about 8 a.m. Friday in northern Ness County. High winds up to 50 miles per hour were reported in the area early Friday, but Engholm said it’s unclear if weather contributed to the accident.
Engholm said the cause of the crash was under further investigation.