Franklin County elementary school students help evacuate bus after crash

Driver broke arm and finger; one girl suffered minor injuries

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. – Two elementary school students jumped into action when their bus crashed Thursday afternoon in Franklin County.

Bus driver Teresa Dooley had to swerve off the road to avoid hitting an oncoming vehicle on Runnett Bag Road at about 3:45 p.m.

While Dooley, who has been driving for Franklin County for 4 ½ years, was calling for help and working with the young students on the front of the bus, while Ferrum Elementary fifth-graders Brooklyn Tolbert and Nicholas Guilliams took the lead to safely get the students off the bus.

There were eight students on the bus at the time of the crash.

Dooley broke her arm and finger, while Brooklyn had minor injuries but was treated and released.

All students were released to their parents at the scene, but not before being checked out by the local rescue squad.

Superintendent Dr. Mark Church and School Board Vice Chairman Julie Nix joined Principal Jennifer Talley on Friday to publicly thank Nicholas and Brooklyn for their heroic endeavors, however, Brooklyn was not at school today due to her injuries but was reached at home for a statement.

LEFT TO RIGHT: Julie Nix, Mark Church, Nicholas Guilliams and Jennifer Talley. Credit: Franklin County Public Schools
LEFT TO RIGHT: Julie Nix, Mark Church, Nicholas Guilliams and Jennifer Talley. Credit: Franklin County Public Schools

“Once I got up off the floor, I was kind of shocked, so I got up and checked on Mrs. Teresa. I tried to get the little ones to stop crying and then we tried to open the door and we evacuated everyone off the bus once Mrs. Teresa was okay. I was really scared when it happened, but I knew we needed to get everyone off in case something happened to the bus we would all be safe. The bus evacuation drills are important and I was able to use what I had learned to get everybody off safe,” said Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Tolbert
Brooklyn Tolbert

“We are very thankful that the injuries were not serious and that everyone will be okay,” said Church. “I am proud of how our bus driver and our students handled themselves and for their quick action to make sure everyone safely exited the bus.”

“When the bus stopped, I stood up and saw that the whole right side of the bus was destroyed. I looked up to see if the bus driver was okay and she was helping and gathering the little kids, so I quickly opened the back emergency exit door so we could all escape," said Nicholas. "By that time, another student, Brooklyn Tolbert, was helping the little kids safely get down from the bus. Finally, after we all got out safely, we waited for the rescue workers to check us all out and our parents to pick us up.” 

The crash is still under investigation by the Virginia State Police.

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