The collision of a Wilkes County school bus and a 1998 Toyota Corolla Thursday afternoon in Roaring River left the driver of the car seriously injured and resulted in two students on the bus being transported to Wilkes Medical Center for observation.
The wreck occurred in a curve on Red, White and Blue Road when the northbound Toyota, driven by Isaiah Cothren, 24, of Roaring River, ran off the right side of the road, then went left of center due to over-correcting and hit the left side of the 2022 Thomas bus, said Trooper Z.M. Jennings of the N.C. Highway Patrol.
Jennings said the Toyota collided with the bus near its left rear wheels, knocking one off the bus. After the impact, the Toyota came to rest in the southbound lane and the bus came to rest partly in the northbound lane and partly off that side of the road.
Cothren was pinned in and was freed from the heavily damaged Toyota by emergency personnel. A Wilkes Emergency Medical Services ambulance transported him to a landing zone set up for an AirCare helicopter near the Tyson Foods feed mill on N.C. 268 East. The helicopter flew him to Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist in Winston-Salem.
Cothren wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and had chest, arm and other injuries, said Jennings, adding that he was conscious. The trooper charged Cothren with driving while license revoked, driving left of center, careless and reckless driving, not wearing a seatbelt and other violations.
Wilkes EMS transported two of about 25 students on the bus to Wilkes Medical Center for observation, said Morgan Mathis, Wilkes County Schools media spokesman. Roaring River Elementary School Principal Danielle Dowell accompanied them to the hospital.
Jennings said a hospital spokesman told him that injuries of the two students taken to the hospital were minor. He said two other students on the bus were identified as injured, but not seriously enough to be taken to a hospital. A few students were picked up by their parents at the wreck scene but most were picked up at Roaring River Elementary after another Wilkes school bus took them there.
The bus in the wreck (number 216) had just left Roaring River Elementary. Jennings said the driver of bus 216, Jacob Winters, 42, of North Wilkesboro, wasn’t injured.
“Wilkes County Schools would like to commend our bus driver for his efforts in keeping our students safe. We are very proud of the quick response and support provided by emergency personnel and school administration which came to the scene,” said Mathis.
“As always, Wilkes County Schools will fully cooperate with law enforcement in investigating the cause of this accident, and proper system protocol will be followed.”
The wreck occurred north of the Ruth Linney Road intersection with Red, White and Blue Road and south of the four-way intersection of Old 60 and Red, White and Blue Road. Jennings said the Toyota was a total loss and the bus was heavily damaged.
He said the Highway Patrol was dispatched at 3:28 p.m. Both lanes of Red, White and Blue Road were closed to traffic until about 5 p.m.
The Wilkes Rescue Squad, Wilkes Sheriff’s Office and the Roaring River and Knotville fire departments responded to the accident, in addition to the Highway Patrol and Wilkes EMS. A school nurse also was on the scene.