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Bus wreck snarled traffic bound for Plato, delayed some students

PLATO, Mo. (Dec. 10, 2010) — The Plato R-V School District has gone many years without a serious school bus crash. Superintendent Leon Slape, who has been with the district since 2002, said the last Plato school bus crash was several years prior to that date when a bus hit a tree; nobody was hurt in that crash, Slape said.

However, district administrative personnel had to spend much of Friday dealing with the fallout from a wreck that totaled a school bus and killed the driver of a car which crossed the centerline of a frost-covered roadway and was struck by the bus.

“I’m just very thankful to the Lord there weren’t any kids on the bus at the time. We certainly feel for the family that had a loss here; we wish them the best,” Slape said.

State troopers report that the westbound Plato school bus was driven by Nallena R. McComas, 40, of Success, and was struck about 6:30 a.m. by Stella Burden, 54, of Falcon, who lost control of her eastbound 2004 Buick, crossed the centerline, and was killed; no students were on the bus and the bus driver was not hurt. The wreck on Highway 32 about a mile east of Lynchburg totaled both vehicles and snarled the roadway, delaying not only students on McComas’ route but also numerous other buses coming to Plato from the west.

“She was just starting out on her route,” Slape said. “It did create some delays because we had to detour around several miles, we could not get any buses through Highway 32 … we had to take a spare bus and run that route a little bit late, bringing the ones that the parents had not brought in already.”

The crash was witnessed by some young Plato Elementary School students, Slape said.

“There were maybe one or two students who saw the accident or who came up on it right as it happened, and of course, they were telling their friends, but the teachers were able to get them on a different thinking route,” Slape said. “Of course we had our counselors available; and the teachers were there to give a hug to those who needed it.”

While investigation is ongoing, state troopers say no charges are expected against the school bus driver. Slape said McComas is an experienced driver and he expects that she’ll be able to return to bus driving.

“She will have several days off due to soreness and strains and bruising. Of course, it depends a lot on the investigation,” Slape said.

McComas is an elementary school paraprofessional, commonly called a “teacher’s aide.”

Transportation is a particularly difficult issue for Plato, which is one of the state’s largest districts by land area. Some school bus routes are very long and drivers routinely have to start out early in the morning before sunrise to pick up students.

“Transportation is a big issue because we cover over 300 square miles and a lot of times, road conditions can vary from the north part of the district to the south part of the district quite extensively. Starting out while it is still dark can sometimes be challenging as well,” Slape said.

“Of course the people we talked to, we did try to emphasize that it pays to be careful and cautious, and on cold mornings like this you never know what the road may be like,” Slape said.  “It’s something that just happened due to road conditions, unexpected and certainly tragic.”

Related articles

Car driver killed after crashing into Plato school bus on frost-covered road
Posted: Friday, December 10, 2010 4:34 pm

THIS ARTICLE: Bus wreck snarled traffic bound for Plato, delayed some students
Posted: Friday, December 10, 2010 5:11 pm

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