A school bus that was transporting a high school baseball team to a scheduled game was involved in a fatal accident with an SUV in St. Mary Parish, Louisiana.
According to State Police Trooper 1st Class Stephen Hammons, the SUV was being driven by 36-year old Ladonna Cheatham when it experienced a tire failure that caused her to lose control of her vehicle. The automobile crossed out of its lane on U.S. 90 near Louisiana 317, crossed over the median and directly into oncoming traffic travelling in the opposite direction. The vehicle collided head on with the bus.
The woman was transporting several passengers, including a 6-year old girl, a 14-year old boy, a 16-year old boy and a 17-year old boy. The driver and three of the four children were not wearing seat belts and were ejected from the vehicle. They were declared dead at the scene. The 17-year old victim was wearing his seat belt and sustained only moderate injuries, which were treated at a nearby hospital.
The bus was carrying thirty students and five adults including the driver. Seven of the teenagers and a 23-year old man from Lafayette were also taken to local hospitals, though none of the injuries were reported to have been serious.
According to witnesses, the accident took place just before noon as the baseball team was headed to Berwick. The SUV was a 2004 Kia Sorento. Its left rear tire blew as it was traveling westbound on U.S. 90 and the school bus was headed eastbound. The 40-year old driver of the bus, Amy Dole of Sunset, Louisiana, was not injured. She was reported to have been wearing a seatbelt.
According to Angela Morrison of the Lafayette Parish School System, following the crash all of the players’ families were contacted and the driver was tested for substances including alcohol. Morrison said, “As in all accidents involving LPSS buses, the driver will be tested for alcohol or other substances but at this time we have no reason to believe the bus driver to have been at fault. In fact, State Police have indicated to us that her actions likely prevented greater injury to her passengers. We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss of life and our hearts go out to the family of the victims.”