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UPDATE: Botetourt County bus driver convicted of improper driving following May wreck

Parents say they had complained about the school bus driver, Mary Elizabeth Esque of Eagle Rock, before the crash

August 22, 2012|WDBJ7 Web Staff/Susan Bahorich/Melissa Gaona/Seth Kovar | WDBJ7 Reporters
  • 13 students were sent to the hospital after a school bus accident Wednesday morning in Botetourt County.
Adam Ward/WDBJ7

BOTETOURT COUNTY, Va. — UPDATED:"My daughter had a bad concussion. She had to be transported by ambulance," remembers Lisa Downey.

Downey and four-other moms remember that May morning when the bus overturned, their kids inside.

Says Downey, "My son was one of the ones who opened the backdoor. I'm very disappointed they didn't find her guilty of reckless driving."

The driver of that bus, Mary Esque was instead found guilty of a lesser charge- "improper driving" and fined 500-dollars.

"She herself forthrightly said that her speed increased a little her attention was diverted and it was a terrible road shoulder, so I think the judge rightly found slight negligence," explains Esque's attorney Rob Hagan.

Investigators say on the morning of the May 23rd, Esque was driving bus 41.
According to testimony she was looking into her rearview mirror, trying to control a student, when she went off the road.
Video taken from inside the bus, shows Esque S-Q trying to get kids to safety after the bus landed on its top.

"The video was consistent with what she told the trooper that morning and it did show she did all the right things after the crash in terms of reporting it and getting the kids off the bus in an orderly way," says Assistant Botetourt County Commonwealth's Attorney John Alexander.

Esque no longer works for Botetourt County.
But parents say, even months later, this all could've been avoided.

"We had heard that parents complained about this woman's driving for months before this incident happened," asks Bahorich.

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Answers Downey, "Right, more like years and they were never addressed."

Botetourt County's school superintendent has previously told WDBJ7 Esque had never had any citations.

And, even though the video hasn't been released to the public, WDBJ7 was able to view it today.

It shows a bumpy ride with middle and high students being thrown around, but Alexander says the one thing everyone should be commended on- how quickly they acted, how kids worked together and everyone stayed calm.

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The driver who was behind the wheel of a May bus accident in Botetourt County was convicted of improper driving on Wednesday in Court.

Mary Elizabeth Esque of Eagle Rock will have to pay a $500 fine.

The accident sent 13 students to the hospital. All of their injuries were relatively minor.

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Officials have released the 9-1-1 call that a Botetourt County student made after a school bus flipped on its top Wednesday.

The accident sent 13 students to the hospital.

To listen to the call, click here.

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Original story from May 23

A school bus that flipped on its top in Botetourt County on Wednesday morning sent 13 students to the hospital.

The students' injuries have been described as relatively minor.

The accident happened around 8:20 a.m. in the 800 block of Zion Hill Road. That's west of Route 220, between Fincastle and Eagle Rock.

Thirty-nine students and one bus driver were aboard the bus when it flipped.

The school bus driver, Mary Elizabeth Esque of Eagle Rock, has been charged with reckless driving. She has been driving for the Botetourt County Public School system since 2007.

According to Virginia State Police Sergeant Bob Carpentieri, Esque was distracted by a student.

"She was looking up in the rearview mirror when she ran off the right side of the roadway and the bus overturned," Carpentieri said.

A student on the bus told WDBJ7's Susan Bahorich that the distraction may have been an argument.

"There was an argument on the bus, I guess it caused the disturbance," Central Academy seventh-grader Dakota Parker said. "And well, the bus driver had taken and spoke to them about it. And I guess when she looked back down on the road the bus was already off the road."

Botetourt County Public Schools superintendent Tony Brads says in the coming days they'll be analyzing the crash and what happened, what was done right, and what could be done better.

In the meantime, Esque has been temporarily suspended. Esque did not have any citations prior to this accident, Brads said.

The bus didn't have seatbelts, but administrators still say the buses are the safest things around.

"I think school buses are one of the safest vehicles on the road and certain transportation staff would reiterate that," Brads said. "I think the issue will probably be an issue of safety belt/seat belts on the school bus; they're not required.  We do not have them only in rollover situations would this maybe make a difference."

The speed limit on Zion Hill Road is 55 miles per hour, but state police say it is not posted.

Eight of the students were taken to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, and the other five were taken to LewisGale Hospital in Salem.

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