Students, driver injured in bus crash

Aaron Looney

PRAIRIEVILLE – A crash involving a school bus along Bluf Road early Tuesday morning sent 16 students and the bus driver to an area hospital, according to information from State Police and Ascension Parish Schools.

School system spokesperson Johnnie Balfantz said that the 16 students, who were among 42 on the bus heading to Dutchtown High School at the time of the crash, were transported to St. Elizabeth Hospital in Gonzales for treatment, but that none of the students were seriously injured.

“According to witnesses and police reporrts, the bus driver avoided a major crash,” Balfantz said.

The crash occurred at about 6:45 a.m., State Police Troop A Sgt. Markus Smith said, when a Ford Explorer turned onto Bluff Road from Paille Drive while a white Chevrolet pick-up truck made a legal pass around the school bus. The truck hit the front left quarter panel of the school bus as the SUV hit the truck’s right rear bumper to cause the crash.

The Explorer then swerved into the southbound lane of Bluff Road and struck the truck in the left side, Smith said. The impact caused the  truck to rotate and exit the road to the right, where it then overturned.

The school bus also left the roadway to the left, striking multiple objects including a fence, before coming to a stop, Smith said.

Superintendent of Schools Donald Songy said Tuesday that the efforts of the school bus driver, identified as 50-year-old Berrylon Kelson, helped save the students from serious injury. Songy said that the collision may have caused the bus to turn over. Instead, Kelson was able to keep the bus upright and guide it off the road, avoiding a head-on collision.

“Ms. Kelson was able to navigate the bus off the highway and elude several dangerous obstacles,” Songy said. “On behalf of the students, I commend her skillful actions to avoid what could have been a catastrophe.”

Kelson was transported to Baton Rouge General Medical Center’s Mid-City location for treatment of minor injuries, Songy said.

The driver of the SUV, identified as 22-year-old Amanda Babin, was ticketed with failure to yield at a stop sign, Smith said.

The driver of the Chevrolet truck, identified as 17-year-old Dutchtown High School student Jeffrey Seeger, was not charged in the incident.

Both Babin and Seeger received minor injuries from the incident and refused medical treatment at the scene, Smith said.