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Unicoi County school bus hit in ‘scary’ accident

By Richard Rourk

A Unicoi County School bus filled with students and teachers was struck while on a field trip in Greene County on Oct. 29.

According to the THP report, Kristen K. Bales, 39, of Greeneville, struck the 2018 Blue Bird bus with her 1998 Toyota Avalon after failing to stop for a red light on 11E in Greeneville. A second vehicle, a 2018 Ford F-150 was struck by Bales in the accident as well.

According to the THP report, the Unicoi County school bus and 2018 Ford F-150 were traveling west on Highway 107 and had begun to make a left turn at the intersection with US 11E. Bales was traveling north on US 11E and failed to stop at the intersection red light.

Bales then reportedly struck both the rear of the F150 and the corner of school bus. All vehicles came to rest in the intersection. There were 64 children traveling on the school bus and a teacher.

“The bus was carrying kindergarteners from Unicoi Elementary and they were going to Niswonger in Greeneville for a field trip,” Unicoi County Director of Schools John English told The Erwin Record.

According to English, one student and one teacher were taken to the hospital to be checked out, but fortunately they are alright.

“I spoke to the teacher on Friday, she’s still feeling the effects of whiplash,” English said on Monday, Nov. 4. “The student was shook up, so we sent him to be checked out and he was fine and is back in school doing great. It was scary for the students. They were shaken up from the accident. It is a scary call to get, but it was a relief to find out everyone was OK.”

English also reported that the bus was not driveable after the accident.

“We had to send another bus down to pick up the students,” English said. “The bus will have to be repaired before it will be back on the road.”

English also urges drivers to be on the lookout for busses.

“You can’t be careful enough. Keep a safe distance from buses,” English said. “We have to think about how many students are on a bus during any given time. There are 50-70 students on a bus at any time so we really have to be cautious.”

English claims that the bus drivers of the Unicoi County School System are some of the most cautious drivers in the country.

“I know our bus drivers are very cautious and aware of the distracted drivers out there, and we are thankful for our bus drivers,” English said. “We are very thankful that no one was seriously harmed in this accident.”

According to the THP, Bales was charged with DUI second offense, disregard for signal, child endangerment, resisting arrest and implied consent law following the incident. She was arrested and transported to the Greene County detention center.