CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - Police have confirmed that speed is a factor in the crash near Richmond which injured dozens of students, one seriously, as they were headed back to college after the Thanksgiving weekend.
The bus driver faces a reckless driving charge in connection with a crash.
Thomas B. Chidester, 58, of Salem, VA was driving the charter bus owned and operated by Abbott Trailways in Roanoke, according to State Police. He picked up the students near Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond to head back to University of Virginia, Radford University and Virginia Tech, police said.
About 15 minutes into the trip, he was headed south on the Powhite Parkway at 7:15 p.m. Sunday with the 50 passengers when he took the ramp to Chippenham Parkway south, lost control on the curve and overturned. Virginia Tech student Daniel Walls, who was left with a fractured clavicle, a concussion, scrapes and bruises, said the driver was speeding and was taking a detour because there were too many accidents on the normal route back to school, which is Interstate 64 West and Interstate 81 South.
34 of the passengers and the driver were injured, with one passenger suffering serious injuries, state police said. After the bus flipped, a car hit the bus. One person suffered minor injuries in that crash, according to state police.
18 of the 34 injured passengers were Radford students, according to university officials. 15 of the 18 students were treated and released from Richmond area hospitals, while the other three are still being treated.
As many as 29 Radford students were registered as passengers between the company's two buses scheduled to return to the school Sunday evening, university officials said in a press release.
"When you have a bus with that many students, we're very fortunate there weren't more seriously injured," said Lt. Jason Elmore from the Chesterfield Fire Department.
The ramp from Powhite south to Chippenham south and the left lane of Powhite south reopened early Monday morning.
Several parents arrived at the scene to pick up their children. One seriously injured was taken to the hospital for treatment, while 34 others with minor injuries were taken as a precaution for mostly cuts, bumps and bruises.
The Virginia State Police Motor Carrier Safety Team is also on scene to conduct a safety check of the bus and is assisting with the ongoing investigation into the cause of the crash.
Another bus operated by Abbott Trailways with college students reportedly overturned in North Carolina in May. Abbott Trailways issued the following statement: