2016-12-21 / Front Page

New York truck driver charged in Tuesday accident with pickup, school bus

Three in pickup transported by EMS, no students injured
Kate Evans & Kate Shunney

The driver of a U.S. Xpress tractor-trailer from New York City was charged with failure to maintain control of his vehicle on Tuesday, December 20 following a multiple-vehicle accident that involved a Morgan County school bus and a pickup truck driven by a Berkeley Springs man.

No students were treated for injuries in the crash, but the driver and two passengers of the pickup were transported for medical treatment.

Police cited Benjamin Bramble, 57, of New York after he struck a pickup that had stopped for a school bus dropping off students. The crash happened just before 3:40 p.m.

Cpl. Scott Lemon of the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department, the investigating officer in the case, said Bramble was northbound in the 5500 block of Valley Road (U.S. 522) near Waugh’s mobile home park when he came over a rise in the roadway and struck a pickup hauling a pull-behind trailer.

The pickup, driven by Andrew Hippler of Berkeley Springs, had stopped in the northbound lane to because Morgan County Schools Bus 182 had activated its amber lights to make a stop in the southbound lane.

Bramble attempted to stop his tractor-trailer, leaving 100 feet of skid marks on U.S. 522, said Cpl. Lemon.

The collision of the tractor-trailer into the rear end of Hippler’s vehicle separated a pull-behind trailer from the pickup truck. That trailer, which was fully loaded with furniture, crashed into the front of the school bus, said Lemon. Hippler’s truck was pushed more than 100 feet north on the roadway.

Hippler, along with two adult passengers in the pickup, were transported to War Memorial Hospital with possible injuries.

 No Morgan County students on the bus were injured, said school officials. Officials notified parents of students that ride bus 182 that the incident had happened and children would be delayed returning home. The bus had already dropped off a number of students prior to the accident.

Morgan County Schools Transportation Director Joyce White said that Bus 182 driver Cathy MacCumbee had put on her yellow caution lights indicating that she was slowing to make another stop to drop off students when the accident happened.

White said Hippler’s trailer hit the front of the school bus on the driver’s side of the wheel base.

MacCumbee told White and responders that the pick-up truck and the tractor-trailer weren’t driving at excessive speeds.  She was nearing the end of her bus run and 30 kindergarten through twelfth grade students were on her bus at the time of the accident. MacCumbee had just made a previous stop.

White said School Prevention Resource Officer Deputy Kevin Barney brought her, Bus Supervisor Tammy Painter and Chief Bus Mechanic Bobby Stotler to the accident scene because traffic was shut down because of the wreck.

U.S. 522 was at least partially closed for close to two hours during the accident response, said Cpl. Lemon.

Paramedics checked out the students on the bus and recorded seating arrangements, steps that are necessary before children can be released to the custody of their parents. Stotler inspected the bus and determined that it was drivable and didn’t need to be towed, she said.

White said that fuel was leaking from the pick-up truck and the semi tractor-trailer and it took awhile for first responders to get the spill under control.  An initial 911 call for the accident reported that large amounts of fluid were leaking onto the roadway. Hazmat units from Washington County, Md. assisted in the cleanup.

Emergency responders to the accident scene included units from Berkeley Springs and South Morgan Volunteer Fire Department, Washington County Hazmat, Morgan County Sheriff’s Deputy Corporal Scott Lemon and Town of Bath Police T.J. Johnson.

White noted that someone initially called  911 and reported that a tractor-trailer had hit the school bus, which was not true.  School Superintendent David Banks said that’s why they wait to release information until they have accurate facts about what  happened.

Banks said a recorded call informed parents of students on the bus and other buses affected by the U.S. 522 shutdown. 

He and Assistant Superintendent Kristen Tuttle personally called parents of all students on the bus to explain what had happened and to answer any questions.  Tuttle said addressing the needs of the students is their first priority with any accident.

Banks said fortunately their school buses are built like tanks.  The bus wasn’t damaged in the accident.  One student complained of a headache and another said they felt some dizziness. 

Students were walked to another bus driven by former Bus 182 driver Angie Schmidt that was allowed to enter the scene.  Schmidt’s bus continued northbound and students were taken home. Parents were emotional but were glad that their kids were okay, said school officials.

White said that all the firefighters, first responders and EMTs did an outstanding job in responding to the scene and all the students on the bus involved in the accident were phenomenal.

White and Banks also cautioned parents not to rush to the scene of a bus accident and to always allow first responders to do their job.  Responders always have to set up a perimeter and check students for injuries.

Banks said the accident  reinforces the reality that U.S. 522 is a dangerous road.  This is the second school bus accident on the highway in two years.  It’s also why they’ve eliminated bus stops where children have to cross the roadway in front of the bus, he said.


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