LINCOLN, Maine — A 6-year-old girl hit by an RSU 67 school bus suffered a broken femur, four compression fractures in her skull and one in her neck, her mother told police Thursday.
Ella P. Burr School first-grader Sophia Nelson of Lincoln was listed in serious condition Thursday morning at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor as police continued to assemble their account of the accident at Clark and Ariel streets Wednesday. Asked about the girl’s condition Thursday evening, a nursing supervisor had no comment.
“Obviously our thoughts and prayers are out to Sophia and her family and for the bus driver and her family,” Police Chief William Lawrence said Thursday. “We are very concerned for the bus driver as well. She was in extreme, extreme shock after this event.”
The accident “is a tragedy of the two families involved here,” Lawrence added.
Per standard procedure, bus driver Casey Voisine was placed on administrative leave with pay Thursday pending the outcome of the investigation, RSU 67 Superintendent Denise Hamlin said. School crisis workers were at Burr and Mattanawcook Junior High School helping students and staff cope with the accident.
“I think that so far the counselors have seen between 25 to 30 students. Anytime this happens to a classmate, it is a difficult situation, especially for young children,” Hamlin said. “We do a significant level of bus safety training at the classroom and the classroom teachers will be revisiting all of that, but for us currently it is about crisis management and ensuring that students and staff have the services they need.”
Voisine was dropping off Burr and junior high students when the accident occurred about 2:45 p.m. Police suspect that Sophia had left the bus and came clear of it just before being struck, possibly by a wheel or the bus’s undercarriage.
“We are getting a great deal of information from people and we don’t have a clear picture of what has transpired yet,” Lawrence said Thursday. “It is still quite an undertaking trying to figure out exactly how this happened.”
A LifeFlight helicopter flew Sophia from Penobscot Valley Hospital in Lincoln to the Bangor hospital. Lawrence said that she was “responsive, awake and talking at the scene.”
A review of Voisine’s safety record showed no previous problems, Hamlin said.
“I’d say that she is a very cautious driver,” Hamlin said.
Hamlin will be sending home with pupils on Thursday a letter to parents outlining bus safety procedures. The letter encourages parents to review the procedures with their children, Hamlin said.
Inspectors with the Maine State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division examined the bus on Wednesday and found no mechanical faults that could have contributed to the accident, Lawrence said.
The intersection of Clark and Ariel streets sits atop a short but steep hill and adjoins Taylor Street Extension and High Street south of Mattanawcook Lake.
Lawrence asked anyone with information about the accident to call Detective David Cram at 794-8455.
A photo caption on an earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the person standing between the two investigators. The person is school bus supervisor Dennis Lowell.