Nell Holcomb bus driver finished afternoon route following head-on collision Wednesday morning

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A school bus driver involved in a crash last week that left 13 injured made her afternoon rounds the same day as the wreck, school and public safety officials said.

All of the Nell Holcomb students treated after the accident suffered relatively minor injuries and were released from the hospital by noon that day, said East County Fire Protection District chief Dwayne Kirchhoff.

The crash involving the bus and a Ford Focus occurred shortly before 8 a.m. Wednesday, just south of Nell Holcomb School on Highway 177 in Cape Girardeau County.

As of Friday, Randall Hunerkoch, 40, of Metropolis, Ill., the driver of the Ford Focus, remained hospitalized at Saint Francis Medical Center, according to Kirchhoff. Saint Francis was not able to release any information on his condition, said hospital spokeswoman Emily Sikes.

More than 35 Nell Holcomb students were on the bus at the time, said Nell Holcomb superintendent Darryl Pannier.

Sue Rees, the driver of the bus, had been sent to the hospital for evaluation but was able and willing to complete her afternoon route the day of the accident.

"She said she felt like if the kids were going to get back on the bus, she should, too," Kirchhoff said.

Rees declined emergency personnel's attempts to put her on a stretcher at the scene for fear it would alarm the students, Kirchhoff said.

Impressed by chart

According to Pannier and Kirchhoff, Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers were so impressed with her seating chart, which allowed her to easily identify all of the students in the minutes following the wreck, that they are considering using it for training purposes.

Some of the students on the bus stayed home the day after the crash because they felt sore, Pannier said. One suffered a sprained wrist and another needed three stitches, but none had to be treated for broken bones, he said.

"It always could be better, but it could have been a heck of a lot worse," Pannier said.

bdicsomo@semissourian

388-3635

Pertinent addresses:

6547 Highway 177, Cape Girardeau, MO

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