Truck Driver In Virginia School Bus Crash Charged

A volunteer firefighter faces a reckless driving charge in connection with last week's school bus-firetruck crash on U.S. 17 in Stafford County.

Amy L. Warner, 30, of Hartwood was charged yesterday under a state law requiring police and fire officers to show "due regard" for the safety of others when responding to emergencies, Sheriff Charles Jett said yesterday.

Three Gayle Middle School students and their bus driver were hurt when the Hartwood Volunteer Fire Department truck slammed into the bus at Village Parkway on Jan. 23.

The bus, carrying 12 students, was turning left out of the Stafford Lakes subdivision onto northbound U.S. 17 when the firetruck struck, shearing off the bus's axle and front wheels.

School officials said the bus driver may have prevented tragedy when she threw the bus into reverse and backed up as soon as she realized the firetruck was coming at her.

The bus driver suffered serious injuries and was flown by helicopter to Inova Fairfax Hospital. She was released the next day to recuperate at home.

Three students were treated for minor injuries at Mary Washington Hospital.

The firetruck, carrying four volunteer crew members, was headed south on U.S. 17 to a house fire. None of the volunteers were injured. The driver was using lights and sirens at the time, police said.

School officials said the school bus was a total loss, but did not have a dollar figure yesterday. Fire officials were still waiting for insurance adjusters to determine how much damage the firetruck sustained.

Stafford Emergency Services Director Chuck Thompson said county insurance would cover accident damages.

The crash won't affect the school district's insurance price for buses. Factors such as criminal charges stemming from accidents and total losses for the year are factored into a district's prices, said Valerie Cottongim, spokeswoman for Stafford County public schools.

"Rates aren't decided on any single incident," Cottongim said.

State law allows emergency vehicles to proceed through stoplights and stop signs without coming to a complete stop, provided "speed is sufficiently reduced to enable it to passwith due regard to the safety of persons and property."

Jett would not comment yesterday on the firetruck driver's speed at the time of the crash.

Hartwood Chief Kevin Dickinson did not return a phone call seeking comment yesterday, but said last week that his driver saw the school bus pulling into the intersection, but could not stop in time.

Warner, who serves as secretary for the Hartwood Volunteer Fire Department, faces a hearing March 3 in General District Court.

Reckless driving is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.