Olympia school bus driver James Bratager is being praised for his actions to minimize damage when a passenger car crossed the center line on Cooper Point Road and drove head-on toward the bus filled with children on their way to Marshall Middle School Wednesday morning.
The collision between the passenger car and the bus resulted in injuries to at least six children and the driver of the car, according to Olympia Police Department spokesman Lt. Paul Lower.
Most of the injuries are bad bruises and swelling, and none were life-threatening, Lower said. The children were transported to local hospitals by various means, Lower said, and the driver of the car was treated for neck pain and released from a hospital. About 40 students were on the bus when the collision occurred.
The crash happened just before 8 a.m., said Susan Gifford, spokesperson for the Olympia School District.
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Lower said it appears that the passenger car was southbound on Cooper Point Road about a quarter mile south of 14th Avenue when it crossed the center line. The bus was northbound, and the driver swerved to the right in an attempt to avoid the collision, but the car collided with the driver’s side of the bus, Lower said.
“Great heads up for bus driver, who saw it coming and was able to get to the side of the road,” Lower said. Bratager has driven for the district since November 2014, Gifford said.
Parent Jane Hontz agrees. Her son was on the bus.
Hontz said the driver protected the kids from a worse situation. “He swerved to avoid a head-on collision. There was a ditch next to him. He kept the bus from going in. My son and myself are very thankful.”
Her son wasn’t injured, but he’s shaken up and doesn’t want to ride the bus again soon, Hontz told The Olympian.
Lower said the 21-year-old male driver of the passenger car was cited for several infractions and more charges may be pending as the investigation continues. There were no signs of intoxication, Lower said.
Lower said after taking care of the injured students, the main emphasis was making sure the rest of the children were safely taken to the school and reunited with their parents.