ADAMS TWP — No mechanical issues were found on a school bus that went over an embankment last week while carrying 40 Mars School District students.
During a meeting Oct. 2 of the Mars School Board, Superintendent Wesley Shipley said Bus No. 4 was “thoroughly investigated” and no mechanical problems were found. The bus went over an embankment in a construction zone along Route 228 on Sept. 24.
The driver of the bus has not been identified by the district, which uses A.J. Myers & Sons Inc. as its transportation provider. The matter remains under investigation by Adams Township police.
Shipley said district officials have met with representatives from A.J. Myers & Sons, as well as the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, to discuss the situation. Additionally, the district sent a letter this week to PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards asking that transportation department personnel be sent to the area and consult with the state police and Adams Township police to determine whether the construction zone is appropriate and safe for travel by school buses.
PennDOT officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Last Tuesday, Shipley said he had heard from several residents suggesting Beaver Street Extension be used as an alternative.
However, he said that was something both Myers and PennDOT officials, “discounted immediately,” as they believe it is more dangerous for buses to pull out from that street than traveling Route 228.
Shipley said the district was “very, very lucky” that no serious injuries were suffered in the accident. Six students were sent to area hospitals with minor injuries, while 22 were taken to UPMC Passavant for evaluation. The remaining 12 students left the scene with their parents.
Shipley said the following day, district officials gathered students' belongings from the bus and returned them.
“We had a chance to interact with them, see how they're doing, how they're feeling after going through such a traumatic experience,” he said.
Shipley added the response by first responders, district officials and others was appreciated.
“If you have to have a horrible accident, I think it was handled well by everybody involved,” he said.
Dayle Ferguson, board president, echoed that sentiment.
“We are thankful for our bus driver, we are thankful for our brave students, we are thankful for Myers and their support, for our first responders from all over the region,” she said. “We were blessed that day. The event itself was horrific, but we were blessed.”
Support received for patriotic theme
Ferguson also said Oct. 2 that the district has received hundreds of letters from across the country from people voicing their support for the Mars High School student section and its red, white and blue-themed football game.
Those in the section were accused on a Pittsburgh radio show of using racial slurs during Mars' game against Penn Hills on Sept. 14. An investigation by Mars found the claims to be false, and Penn Hills and WPIAL officials both reported not receiving any complaints of that nature.
Ferguson said letters from as far away as Oklahoma and Louisiana have been received offering thanks and support for the use of the America-themed student section. The game occurred just three days after the anniversary of 9/11.
“Out mailboxes are literally filling up with thank-yous,” she said.
She reiterated that the district will continue to defend students against unsubstantiated claims, and that the district supports their message of patriotism.
“Apparently hundreds of people from across the country do, too,” she said.