Witness shares details of Friday school bus crash on N.C. 211

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SUPPLY — Taryn Clemmons of Shallotte had just picked up her son from South Brunswick Charter School on Friday and was heading back toward Shallotte on the only road that could get her there, N.C. 211, when she crested the hill and saw the immediate aftermath of a collision involving two buses and a truck.


“As soon as I came down the hill … I saw a second bus on top of a car and a car smoldering,” Clemmons said. “I said (to my son) ‘Noel, you need to stay in the car. There’s an accident up here and it’s going to be real bad.’ I thought the car was going to explode. You could see smoldering even from that distance.”

The crash occurred at 3:43 p.m. when 27-year-old Cary M. Felton of Supply became distracted by children on his bus leaving from Virginia Williamson Elementary School and failed to brake, hitting the truck in front of him driven by Jeffrey Mize, 45, of Supply, North Carolina State Highway Patrol Trooper E.C. Harris said.

The bus hit the truck at 45 mph, causing the truck to be pushed up under another Virginia Williamson bus in front it. The driver of that bus, 58-year-old Marcia Pitroski of Supply, had stopped while waiting to make a left turn onto Hewettown Road SW.

The Highway Patrol cited Felton with failure to reduce speed, Harris said.

Brunswick County Schools spokeswoman Jessica Swencki said Felton has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation. He was originally hired Nov. 16, 2015 as a substitute transportation assistant. He changed positions to a substitute bus driver/activity driver Jan. 14, 2016 and became a bus driver March 14, 2016.

A total of 64 children were aboard the buses, with 28 students taken by mass casualty bus to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington and Brunswick Novant Medical Center in Supply to be treated for injuries that were with not life-threatening, Harris said.

The final confirmed number of 26 students taken to two area hospitals had been treated and released, Swencki said late Friday night.

Mize remained in the intensive care unit at New Hanover Regional on Sunday night, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The name and condition of Mize’s 8-year-old son, who had been riding in the front seat with his father, was not available, but Clemmons said he seemed to be fine when she assessed him, holding his hands to comfort him soon after she came upon the crash.

Clemmons said when she approached Mize’s truck, she tended to the boy, getting his information and having him keep his eyes on her as his father was extricated from the truck with the Jaws of Life, and waited until the boy was extricated from the vehicle and put on a stretcher.

She then went to help the children who had been riding on the buses.

“Probably one of the sweetest things I’ve seen is these kids were consoling each other,” she said. “You had kids from both buses, kids from the first bus concerned about kids from the second bus, brothers and sisters who wouldn’t leave each others’ side.

“The kids were phenomenal. I wish adults were like that. They were just so concerned about each other.”

A woman later arrived at the scene and ran toward her daughter, who jumped into her mother’s arms, both crying in relief, Clemmons said.

“It was so heartwarming,” she said.

At least one adult who came upon the crash scene was much more careless, Clemmons said.

“A woman was driving by off the side of the road with her cell phone, taking pictures or video, and she was paying attention to her cell phone and not the road, and not the people trying to help in the road,” Clemmons said. “I don’t know what her intention was (but) there were people in the road. She could’ve killed somebody, or could’ve injured us trying to help these injured people.

“Things like that is what makes a scene so much worse. You end up having multiple incidents at one scene because people are rubbernecking and taking pictures. If it wasn’t for the fact that I was standing with that kid, I would’ve chased that woman down and snatched that phone out of her hand.”

Emergency crews cleared the scene about 7 p.m. Friday, with both lanes shut down for about 90 minutes, Harris said.

Brunswick County Emergency Management, EMS, sheriff’s deputies and school district personnel also responded, in addition to members of area fire departments, he said.

Lindsay Kriz is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or lkriz@brunswickbeacon.com.