School bus with 45 students on board involved in Clinton traffic crash, 3 to hospital

Several elementary school students were injured when a school bus carrying 50 people was involved in a traffic crash on Friday in Clinton, Missouri.

Students at Sherwood Elementary School were returning from a field trip at the Clinton Community Center around 1:45 p.m. when the bus was hit by an SUV driving northbound on Price Lane, according to the Sherwood School District and the Clinton Police Department.

The field trip was celebrating the last day of summer school.

At the time, 45 students were on board, along with four teachers and the driver, according to the Clinton Police Department. Police initially reported that the students were in 1st and 2nd grade, while Sherwood School District superintendent Phil Rogers told The Star that they were in 3rd through 5th grade.

Rogers described the accident as “minor” when speaking with The Star on Friday.

“Kids were shaken up, some little bumps and bruises, but nothing, no major injuries, just little minor injuries from an accident,” Rogers said. “Everybody’s home with their families doing well.”

But some parents felt abandoned by the school district in the aftermath of the crash.

“They checked everyone out, and I’m very thankful for that,” Courtney Peregrine, whose 8-year-old son was on the bus, told The Star. “But it was very evident that the school did not know how to handle it. Everyone there had the same feeling.”

Parents were first informed that their children had been involved in a bus crash around 2:30 when they received an automated voicemail from the school, Peregrine said.

The voicemail told parents that emergency medical responders were on scene, but did not say who had been injured and how seriously, said Peregrine, who works as a 911 call dispatcher. Some parents received a text with similar information instead.

Peregrine also alleges she knows Sherwood parents who were not notified, even though their children had been in the crash.

“It would have been nice to give personal messages,” Peregrine said. “I don’t know what they can do, but to me, they could have at least said ‘no serious injuries’ to at least put us at ease there.”

Once parents arrived at either Clinton Community Center or Sherwood Elementary, parents were not given any information as to the status of their children, Peregrine said. When Peregrine tried to pull aside school administrators, she said she was redirected three times.

“They could not give us any answers,” Peregrine said. They kept trying to play it off like it wasn’t a big deal, but as we were there, parents kept getting calls and then leaving hysterically crying … because their kids were injured badly.”

Peregrine also told The Star that Sherwood staff did not answer any phone calls regarding the crash after the original automated message was sent.

Rogers told The Star that the Sherwood School District has been in contact with the families of students who were on the bus during the accident, as well as district families at large.

Multiple injuries were reported as a result of the accident, according to the Clinton Police Department. Three students were taken in an ambulance to a nearby emergency room, which the department described as “precautionary” in a news release.

Some children were taken to the hospital later Friday evening with lingering symptoms, Peregrine said. Among them were Peregrine’s own son, a rising third-grader, who badly skinned his knees when he was thrown from his seat but began complaining of a full-body ache Friday afternoon.

“His knees were visibly beaten up,” Peregrine said. “I asked him, ‘Did you hit your head or anything?’ and he said, ‘Mom, I don’t know, it was too scary, it happened too fast.’”

Peregrine told The Star that her son reported seeing several students being thrown from their aisle seats during the crash. Some were flung against the windows, hitting their heads, Peregrine said.

A close friend of Peregrine was told her daughter was leaving the accident in a neck brace, Peregrine said. The parent later found out that her daughter was uninjured, and the school had mixed her up with a different girl of the same name.

After the accident, students were evacuated to an air-conditioned senior center nearby, Peregrine said. Multiple Sherwood parents, including Peregrine, left work early to pick up their children. Other children were bussed back to Sherwood Elementary School, 22 miles away from the crash, and then bussed home.

Initial investigations indicate that the bus driver was at fault for the accident, as the driver did not yield to oncoming traffic, the Clinton Police Department said. The driver’s sight line may have been partially blocked by equipment attached to the side of the bus, according to police.

Peregrine’s son told her that the front of the bus was seriously damaged and that the SUV which hit the bus was totaled, Peregrine said. He also remembered seeing smoke coming from the bus, and watching the driver discover that the bus radio was broken.

Rogers declined to comment on whether the district plans to press charges or take disciplinary action against the bus driver. The district’s response to the event is still taking shape, Rogers said.

Since the start of 2024, 286 full-sized school buses have been involved in traffic crashes in Missouri, according to state data. Fifty-six of those crashes, or just under 20%, ended in at least one injury.