Minor injuries reported in Putnam school bus crash

PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla. – A terrifying crash in West Putnam County sent a dozen students to the hospital Thursday.

Those dozen students suffered minor injuries when their school bus overturned on State Road 21 at Baden Powell Road about 2:40 p.m., according to the Putnam County Sheriff's Office.

Parents like Jessica Parsons are breathing a sigh of relief that their children walked away from this major accident.

"I was wondering what happened. You don't hear many things about buses," said Parsons. "You know, we did what we need to do -- got here as soon as possible to be here for her."

Parson's daughter, Rachel, was one of a dozen kids sent to the hospital after their bus rolled. Investigators with the Florida Highway Patrol said the bus was trying to avoid an oncoming SUV.

"I was closing my eyes saying, oh my gosh, this is just a dream," said Rachel Parsons. "And I was repeating it. Opened my eyes and it wasn't.

Authorities initially said the driver, 31-year-old Michael Backlund, had serious injuries and was transported to UF Health in Gainesville, along with five other students. Backlund was later said to have only minor injuries, including abrasions, lacerations and a broken bone. Eight others of the 30 middle school students on board were taken to a Putnam Community Medical Center.

IMAGES: School bus overturns

According to the Putnam County Sheriff's Office, the students were all from C.H. Price School in Interlachen.

According to the FHP, the bus was northbound on S.R. 21 when the southbound SUV truck turned left in front of the bus. When the driver took evasive action, the bus turned over.

The driver of the SUV, identified as 37-year-old Irish Ann O'Sullivan of Hawthorne, was cited with violating the right of way.

Troopers said seat belts were not equipped for the students' use on the bus because it was manufactured without them.

The bus was upright by about 4 p.m., and a relief bus picked up any students needing transport home. Some kids were picked up by parents.

Putnam County Superintendent of Schools, Phyllis Criswell told Channel 4 hearing about the bus full of students involved in the accident was the worst call she could ever imagine.

"I was at my office in Palatka and we immediately, I called the sheriff. I met him at sheriff's office and he transported me to the scene so we were able to assess the situation," said Criswell.

Criswell said emergency crews and school officials flooded the scene. Criswell told Channel 4 that she's thankful no one was seriously hurt and amazed by how her students acted.

"The paramedics that were on hand told me that these students were amazing. A few were kind of crying, just a little bit. But for the most part, very orderly and calm and did exactly as they were told to do. Not hollering or screaming, not arguing. And they said they were amazing," said Criswell.

Parson said she will allow her daughter back on the bus, but will be nervous after what happened Thursday afternoon.

"I'm going to be kind of scared for her to ride the bus, but I can always call the school to make sure she's there," said Parson.

"All emergency situations are critical, but it seems to touch a little closer to home when children are involved. So we were very thankful that none of the children were seriously injured and that everybody's going to be okay," said Bryan.