Truck collides with bus

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 12, 2006

ROXIE &8212; A bus-full of Alexandria Senior High School students escaped disaster Friday evening after it was hit broadside by a pickup truck at the Roxie interchange of U.S. 84.

The bus was traveling eastbound on U.S. 84 on its way to McComb for a JROTC drill competition.

Jerry Roberts, who was driving the bus, said he saw the pickup truck roll through the stop sign as it crossed the median on Mississippi 33 south.

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&8220;It looked like he was stopping,&8221; he said. &8220;But he kept coming, and I whipped it to the right.&8221;

Roberts&8217; quick reflexes may have lessened the impact on the bus, but the blow was enough to knock the daydreaming Sarah O&8217;Neal out of her daze.

O&8217;Neal said she was lying down listening to her headphones and had no idea what had happened.

&8220;I thought the bus had flipped over,&8221; she said. &8220;I had my pillow, thank God, so I didn&8217;t bang my head.&8221;

The knot on O&8217;Neal&8217;s knee was one of just two injuries in the accident.

One other student reported dizziness; the group&8217;s leader, Joseph Martin, said paramedics advised them to pay close attention to the student.

Martin credited Roberts with keeping his cool in a hairy situation.

&8220;It hit, and my main concern was that we didn&8217;t run into the ditch,&8221; he said. &8220;But he kept us on the road.&8221;

The passengers borrowed a Franklin County school bus to finish the trip. O&8217;Neal said mishap wouldn&8217;t affect her squad&8217;s performance.

&8220;We still feel like we can win,&8221; she said.

Roxie Volunteer Fire Chief Archie Geohegan said the driver of the pickup &8212; a man from Liberty whose name was not available &8212; told officers at the scene he never saw the bus.

His truck hit the bus broadside but did not lodge under it. The driver was apparently unhurt and taken from the scene by his mother.

Geohagen said he was glad no one was killed in the wreck but suspects it won&8217;t be the last.

&8220;I just hope nobody else gets killed before they fix it,&8221; he said.

The wreck is the third since the middle of December. Two of those claimed three lives. All have involved vehicles running the stop sign on the median that separates the east- and west-bound lanes of U.S. 84.

After a fatal accident Jan. 19, Geohegan said his cries for help finally found ears, but the efforts made by the Mississippi Department of Transportation &8212; which included lowering the speed limit through the interchange from 65 to 45 miles-per-hour &8212; weren&8217;t enough to fix the problem.

For starters, he and members of the fire department on the scene Friday said the new speed limit signs are hard to see.

&8220;We need a flashing light, at least,&8221; Geohegan said.

He said he would make the same rounds of calls as last time: the governor, local legislators, MDOT and the Mississippi Highway Patrol, in hopes of further improvements to the interchange.