UPDATE: Driver suspended after bus crash injures RU, VT and UVA students

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RICHMOND (WSLS 10) — The driver of a bus that crashed, injuring several southwest Virginia college students, was suspended while Virginia State Police investigate the incident. 

State police said speed was a factor in the cause of the crash, which happened around 7:15 p.m. Sunday, November 29 in North Chesterfield County near Richmond.

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An Abbot Trailways charter bus was traveling south on the Powhite Parkway/Route 76 when it took the ramp to Chippenham Parkway/Route 150 south. As the bus came through the curve of the ramp, the driver lost control and the bus overturned onto its side.

The bus, operated by Abbott Bus Lines of Roanoke, had 50 passengers and a driver on board at the time of the crash.

Approximately 34 of the passengers and the driver were transported to six Metro-Richmond hospitals for treatment of minor injuries. One passenger is still being treated for serious injuries. According to Radford University, there were 18 of its students reporter injured in the accident. 15 were treated and released from Richmond area hospitals.

State police said the passengers were students returning to the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and Radford University. The bus picked the students up at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and was initially headed to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Troopers charged the bus driver, Thomas B. Chidester, 58, of Salem, Va., with reckless driving. Chidester was wearing a seat belt. He was suspended from his duties, which is standard after an accident according to Dan Ronan, spokesman for Abbott Trailways.

The Virginia State Police Motor Carrier Safety Team also responded to the scene to conduct a safety check of the bus and is assisting with the ongoing investigation into the cause of the crash.

According to Don Shepherd, the interim safety director for Abbott, the company is working with students' parents on transportation and getting back their belongings on the crashed bus.

Back in May, a crash happened involving one of Abbott's buses carrying players and staff of the Carolina Mudcats baseball team.

"Anytime anything like this happens it's a tragedy and we're doing everything we can to make sure we go back and reassess everything," says Shepherd.

According to Shepherd, Chidester started with the company in 2011 and says he is still with the company but the incident is still under investigation.

Shepherd also said all 66 of its buses have seatbelts and it's unclear how many people used them during the time of the crash.

Abbott Trailways sent a statement on Sunday, which reads in full:

On Sunday night, November 29, a motorcoach owned and operated by Abbott Trailways was involved in an accident in Richmond, Virginia.

The motorcoach was chartered to take students at Virginia Tech and Radford University back to their campuses after the Thanksgiving weekend

At this time, Abbott Trailways is fully cooperating with law enforcement officials and first responders to make sure everyone onboard the motorcoach is accounted for and anyone who needs medical attention gets it.

The cause of the accident is under investigation and Abbott Trailways is again working with police to determine what happened.

Abbott Trailways is also taking steps to make sure all of the students who wish to get to campus tonight are accommodated on another bus, which was dispatched as soon as the company learned of the accident."

Radford University sent a statement on Monday, which reads:  

As of Monday morning, Radford University can confirm to-date that 14 Radford University students have been reported injured in the "Home Ride" bus accident Sunday evening in Richmond. According to the bus operator, a total of 31 Radford University students were registered as passengers on the bus.

Of those 12 students, nine were known to have been transported to VCU Medical Center. RU students transported to VCU include seven who received treatment and were released as of early this morning, and two who remained under observation at VCU as a precaution. There is no additional releasable information regarding the other five injured students.

Radford University has begun reaching out to the RU students who were passengers on the bus to ascertain their well-being, as well as to coordinate notification with their respective instructors about missed classes and make available, as needed, assistance from the university's student health center and counseling services.

According to a statement attributed to the bus operator, Abbott Trailways, the bus was scheduled to take Radford University and Virginia Tech students from Richmond on Sunday evening to their campuses after the Thanksgiving weekend break.

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