By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Students shocked but resilient after fatal school bus crash
Extra counselors brought to Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy
1202WRECK 0003
Students from Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy are loaded onto a second bus Tuesday afternoon after their bus was involved in a fatal wreck on Cleveland Highway at Whitmire Circle in North Hall County. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Elementary students met with counselors today to help them process Tuesday afternoon’s fatal bus wreck in which 31 students were involved.

“They’re still kind of shocked,” Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy counselor Renee Strickland said. “They are still in that state of, ‘I can’t believe this happened.’”

The wreck between a car and the school bus killed Sabrina Tench, 52, of Cleveland and injured six children. The bus ran completely over the car, leaving a mangle of wreckage and broken axles near the intersection of Cleveland Highway and Whitmire Circle in North Hall, according to one witness.

The Hall County School District responded Tuesday evening by calling parents and sending representatives to the emergency room at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

“I talked to every parent (Tuesday) night,” Wauka Mountain Principal Jo Dinnan said. “I called every one of them after I got back from the emergency room and just shared with them that we are here as their support and that our counseling department is here if their children are expressing any fear.”

Strickland said most students were talkative and expressing their feelings, which she said is good. Those who are struggling with their feelings might be asked to draw or meet privately with a counselor.

Strickland is working with counselors from Riverbend and Mount Vernon elementary schools, who came in first thing in the morning.

Dinnan said she and the three counselors want to be “supportive in the right way for students.”

“This morning we met with the kids that were actually on the bus, talked and kind of processed with them what happened, the feelings they had and what their worries were,” Strickland said. “Just processing with them and listening to them, giving them a place to contain that information and share it.”

The counselors also spoke a little longer with each child who went to the hospital following the accident, and advised teachers to contact the counselors if they see a child who might need to meet one-on-one through the day.

Dinnan said any child at the school can request to meet with a counselor if they are worried or upset, and parents can also call or email counselors if they are worried about their children.

“I think the kids just need an opportunity to be listened to,” Strickland said. “And parents, too. There are some parents I’ll be contacting to let them know how to handle it when their child gets home and over the next few days.”

Strickland said some students are afraid of riding the bus again, and many are worried about their bus driver.

The driver Vanessa Clark, 56, of Clermont was charged with second-degree vehicular homicide and failure to yield after a stop sign.

Many students are also worried about “the family of the lady in the car.”

But Dinnan said, all things considered, she believes the students are doing “amazingly well.”

“They are resilient,” she said. “They’ve shared their fears, and it was pretty traumatic for them, but they’re asking good questions today and have had a chance to talk about it.”

Strickland said it’s important for children to talk about it and to be given only as much information as they need to process and heal.

“They have a lot of information to take in, which is why it’s important for them to have a place at home and at school to process that,” Strickland said. “They don’t have the cognitive ability we do to take in all that information, so you just try to give them what they need and not too much.”

Friends to Follow social media