4 cited in school bus crash that injured 61

Four drivers have been issued citations following a chain-reaction crash involving school buses headed to Six Flags Over Georgia, the Georgia State Patrol said Thursday.

Students and chaperones from Burke County Middle School were traveling on six school buses on May 19 when the crash occurred in the westbound lanes of the I-20, just west of the Ga. 11 exit, as the vehicles were approaching an active construction zone.

A bus driver was the most seriously injured in the crash, but 60 others were also hurt, suffering mostly minor injuries. The injured bus driver had to be cut from the wreckage before being flown to Grady Memorial Hospital for treatment. She has since been released.

The buses were traveling in the left lane, and traffic began slowing near the construction zone, where the two lanes reduced to one, according to Sgt. Matt Gunnin with the GSP post in Monroe.

“The first bus in line began braking for the slowing traffic ahead which caused the other buses to brake,” Gunnin said.

The second bus struck the first bus in the rear, and the third and fourth buses moved to the right lane in an attempt to avoid the collision, according to the GSP. The fourth bus was hit in the rear by the fifth bus, which caused the fourth bus to hit the third in the rear.

The fifth bus continued forward and struck the second bus in the rear, before the fifth bus was then hit from behind by the sixth bus. A 2011 Chevrolet HHR then struck the rear of the sixth bus, according to investigators.

Three bus drivers and the passenger vehicle's driver were charged with following too closely, a misdemeanor, according to the GSP.

The bus drivers charged are Betty Harrison Dukes, 48, of Waynesboro, driver of the second bus; Angela Benjamin Anthony, 44, of Midville, driver of the fifth bus; and Stephanie D. Pierce, 37 of Midville, driver of the sixth bus.

The Chevy's driver, Latarsha Moneek Owens, 37, of Waynesboro, also was charged.

All four have a court date scheduled for Sept. 18 in Newton County Probate Court in Covington.