Driver charged in St. Johns County school bus crash

Local students hurt in school bus crash

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — One student was seriously injured after a school bus crash Wednesday morning in St. Johns County.

Action News Jax learned just before 5 p.m. that the school bus driver in that crash, Joseph David Sanks, 69, of St. Augustine, was charged with careless driving. The driver was charged "after interviews of the driver and independent witnesses," according to an FHP report.

Officials with the Florida Highway Patrol, St. Johns County Sheriff's Office and St. Johns Fire Rescue responded to the crash on Interstate 95 just south of International Golf Parkway. The crash happened just before 7 a.m.

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A representative with St. Johns County School District said the single-vehicle school bus had 11 students on board. The bus was headed to Pacetti Bay Middle School and the parents have been notified.

The representative said a student was flown to UF Health Jacksonville for treatment of serious -- but non-life-threatening -- injuries. FHP Sgt. Dylan Bryan said the student had a significant leg injury.

Three others were taken to Baptist South in stable condition for evaluation of minor injuries, said SJCFR. The other students were either picked up by parents or taken to school on another bus.

Bryan said the bus driver was not injured and is cooperating with the crash investigation.

St. Johns County School District released a statement Wednesday night that says Sanks has been suspended.

"He has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of our investigation, which is standard procedure for us. His being cited for careless driving did not impact our process."

An FHP report said the bus was traveling in the right lane on I-95 southbound when it drove onto the grassy shoulder for "an undetermined reason" and then struck several trees. Three trees had to be removed after the crash, according to the report.

The school bus does have seatbelts, but it is not known if the students were buckled in, Bryan said.

"I think these things kind of happen," said mother of student Kristin Jones. "Kind of check in as parents, and make sure everything is OK, and say prayers for those kids who were involved and it was just unfortunate that, that happened.

Christian Rijo, an eighth grader, was released from the hospital with bruising to his face and jaw. He said he was asleep when the crash started.

"I don't remember this, but one of the girls said I flew up into the air at one point and that to me was really scary," Chrisitan said. "I count it as a blessing, because if I was awake maybe something different would've happened."

Action News Jax went to school bus driver’s home Wednesday. A woman at his address said he didn’t want to talk about the charges.

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