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6 North Carolina Students Killed in School-Bus Accident

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Five schoolchildren were killed on May 31 in Greene County, N.C., when a tractor semi-trailer collided with four other vehicles, including a school bus carrying 28 students.

The driver of the truck, age 27, was also killed, according to Robert Buckhorn, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board (ntsb), which has begun an investigation into the accident in conjunction with the state highway patrol.

A sixth schoolchild died two days later of multiple injuries, according to police in Snow Hill, N.C.

Sheila Dawson, the 18-year-old driver of the school bus and a student at Greene Central High School, remained in critical condition last week. The remaining 22 bus passengers, children ages 5 to 14 who attend Snow Hill Primary School and West Greene Elementary School, were injured in the accident.

Student Drivers Under Scrutiny

Student drivers have recently come under scrutiny in North Carolina, which, along with South Carolina, employs more students as school-bus drivers than any other state in the country. Because state and national transportation officials acknowledge that student drivers are responsible for a disproportionate share of accidents, some districts have begun to move away from hiring them.

Preliminary investigative find3ings suggest, however, that the truck driver was at fault in the Greene County accident. The driver of the school bus took "partial evasive action" in an attempt to avoid being hit by the truck, according to James Jeglum, who is in charge of the ntsb investigation.

The collision took place at 3:15 P.M. as the three-year-old bus was beginning its homeward route on U.S. 13, about 60 miles from Raleigh, according to Mr. Buckhorn. The bus was struck when the tractor semi-trailer crossed the center line of the two-lane highway. "The6school bus was ripped open and crushed on the left side from behind the driver's seat to the rear axle," Mr. Buckhorn said.

Although news reports indicated that the truck's driver had fallen asleep at the wheel, Mr. Buckhorn said it will be several months before the board reaches any conclusion as to who was responsible for the accident. This is the sixth time in two years that the board, which is charged by the Congress with investigating fatal accidents, has looked into an accident involving a school bus, Mr. Buckhorn said.

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