The driver of an 18-wheeler that struck a school bus in Statesboro on Monday morning has been charged with following too closely, according to Georgia State Patrol reports.
No students were on the bus, as driver Brandi Leigh Perkins was just starting her route of picking up children for Langston Chapel Middle and Elementary schools around 6:10 a.m., said Hayley Greene, public relations specialist for Bulloch schools.
It was still dark when Perkins stopped at the railroad crossing on Veteran's Memorial Parkway, about a quarter mile west of Highway 301. Georgia law requires all school buses to stop at crossings, even if no children are present, according to Paul Webb, chief operations officer for the schools' Transportation Department.
"She had her flashing amber lights on and the bus door open," he said. "She was rolling down her window to listen for a train, again, as Georgia law requires, when she told me she felt the impact and heard crunching metal."
Garrett Rodriquez Carter, of Oak Lake Drive in Augusta, plowed into the rear of the stationary school bus, causing extensive damage to the truck's cab and the right rear of the school bus.
Perkins, 39, was listed in stable condition after being taken by Bulloch County EMS to East Georgia Regional Medical Center.
"I spoke with the driver while she was at the hospital, and she was stable and alert," Webb said Monday morning. "Frankly, this could have been a real tragedy if children were on that bus. I cannot overemphasize the importance of school bus safety to the driving public out there."
According to the signage on the 2010 International truck, it is part of Griffis Motor Lines based in North Augusta, South Carolina. Representatives for Griffis were not immediately available for comment.
Webb estimated the force of the collision pushed the bus about 100 yards before it stopped in front of Advance Auto Parts on the bypass.
Arriving on the scene about 15 minutes after the crash, Webb said Perkins was already on her way to the emergency room at EGRMC. He said he saw the driver of the truck and asked him if he was OK, and the driver signaled that he was.
"I didn't speak with the driver or get a chance to talk with state troopers on the scene, but the driver had to be distracted by something to not slow down at all before hitting the bus," Webb said. "I could see no skid marks on the road prior to the collision."
Trooper reports stated Carter, 43, said that he saw Perkins' flashing lights and that she had stopped at the railroad tracks, but he believed she had begun moving again and did not slow in time to avoid the collision.
Jim Healy may be reached at (912) 489-9402.
Holli Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.