‘Could have been a lot worse’

Published 8:46 pm Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The King’s Fork High School girls’ field hockey team canceled practice Tuesday and rescheduled a district game against Western Branch High School Wednesday after the team was involved in a bus accident Monday night.

Varsity and junior varsity players were returning from a game at Woodside High School in Newport News Monday when the bus skidded into a ditch in the median on Route 17 in Isle of Wight County, schools spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw said.

Eleven of the 20 players were treated and released at area emergency rooms. The most serious injury reported was a broken ankle. Seven students attended school Tuesday, while the rest stayed home to recuperate.

Mollie Turner, King’s Fork’s varsity field hockey head coach, is knowledgeable in basic first aid and CPR.

“We knew enough that as for the girls with neck pain, that we kept them still until professionals got to the scene,” said Turner.

“I personally stayed as calm as I could, because I knew if I was freaking out it would only make things worse,” said Turner.

Randy Jessee, activities director at King’s Fork, said “(Turner) handled the whole situation last night very, very well.”

Jessee and Turner met with the athletes who attended school Tuesday morning.

“Most of the ladies were pretty somber about what happened, and that was mostly about their teammates who were hurt and wondering how they were doing,” Jessee said.

Jessee said the athletes and parents will make their own decisions on when to compete again.

“It’ll be decided by each young lady on an athlete-by-athlete basis,” he said. “We certainly don’t want to put any pressure on anyone to participate again before they’re ready. We’re kind of leaving it in the hands of the athletes and their parents to decide what and when they want to do.”

“Everything considered, the girls I’ve spoken with are doing well and in good spirits. I think we’ll be good. It was just a frightening experience for an evening,” said Turner.

“We’ve totally put (the accident) in perspective. We had just come over the bridge. If we had still been on the bridge, the outcome would’ve been a lot different. In that sense, we were fortunate, and everything could’ve been a lot worse,” said Turner.

Some of the girls who didn’t have to go to the hospital visited teammates at hospitals late Monday night, Turner said.

“So a lot of the girls came into school late this morning. It was a very late evening,” she said.

Turner hopes a junior varsity tournament scheduled for Saturday will go on as planned and that varsity practices will get going by the end of the week.

“We’re hoping we won’t have to amend our schedule any more past Wednesday,” she said.

The driver, Mary Jo Chaney, 54, of Suffolk, was charged with failure to maintain her lane, Virginia State Police Sgt. Michelle Cotten said. Because the accident report had not yet been completed, Cotten did not know the cause of the accident, but she said a witness driving behind the bus did not report the bus speeding.

Chaney, who has been with the school system for a year, has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending the results of the mandatory drug and alcohol test. She does regular elementary and middle school runs in the morning and afternoon each day, and does occasional activity runs, Bradshaw said.

The bus, which was towed from the scene, will need about $8,000 worth of repairs before it can be put on the road again, Bradshaw said. An accident review board of division administrators is conducting its own investigation into the incident.