by Josh Reiss, photographer
On Friday Nov. 4, a group of eight students were involved in a bus accident on their way to the North Carolina Stage Company’s performance of Angels in America: Millennium Approaches. Theater professor Graham Paul was driving a 14-passenger van on Interstate 240 going towards Asheville when traffic stopped ahead. The bus, which was traveling at an appropriate speed according to students on the bus, then swerved after Paul quickly braked to avoid the stopped cars ahead.
The front-right end of the bus rear-ended a large pickup truck, causing significant damage to both vehicles. Four students as well as a passenger in the truck sustained minor injuries from the collision.
“We were all pretty zonked,” said sophomore Evan Waksler, who sustained the most visible injuries: two lacerations on his nose that were “bleeding pretty profusely.” After establishing that everyone was okay, the group exited the bus and waited for an ambulance.
In addition to an ambulance, firefighters came to the scene, telling the group that if someone had been sitting in the front-right corner of the bus (the point of impact) they would likely have died in the crash.
Though the accident may have been avoidable, junior Mike Willey said that the impact was “less a result of bad driving and more a result of the vehicle itself.” What Willey took from the experience was an increased distrust of the Warren Wilson 14-passenger vans, of which he is a licensed driver. “I do believe these buses are unsafe, and I don’t want to drive them again.”
Some of the injured students were wearing seat belts, but Waksler was not one of them. “Sometimes what you need [to remember to buckle up] is to fly into the back of a bus.”
After all of the students declined a ride to the hospital, Educational Access Coordinator Deborah Braden happened upon the scene on the way to Atlanta for a conference. She brought the four injured students back to campus. Rides to urgent care were offered by Public Safety to all students, and all costs of treatment for injuries sustained will be covered by the college.