SUV driver charged in school bus wreck that sent 7 to hospitals

Troopers: Driver fell asleep, crashed into school bus head-on

POSTED: 8:46 AM Sep 10 2013   UPDATED: 11:12 PM Sep 10 2013
JACKSONVILLE, ONSLOW COUNTY -

A driver has been charged for allegedly falling asleep and crashing into a school bus Tuesday morning, sending him and six students to hospitals.

According to the Highway Patrol, Michael Valderrama has been charged with careless and reckless driving and driving left of center.

Troopers said Valderrama was driving on Old Maplehurst Road, near the intersection of Vandergrift Drive in Jacksonville, when he fell asleep and crashed his Nissan Xterra into the school bus carrying 26 students to Southwest High School.

The accident happened at about 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Parents took six students to Onslow Memorial Hospital as a precautionary measure. Those students suffered minor injuries, according to Suzie Ulbrich, the public information assistant for Onslow County Schools.

"Our kids had some bumps and bruises," Ulbrich said. "When you get the call first thing in the morning that there has been a head-on collision with a bus, it’s pretty frightening."

Ulbrich said the bus driver was doing fine too.

“She didn't panic. She saw it coming. She stepped on the break, stopped the bus, and took the impact," said Ulbrich.

Valderrama was airlifted to New Hanover Regional Medical Center. He posted on his Facebook page that his leg was "smashed." His SUV had significant damage.

North Carolina Highway Patrol Sergeant R.E. Dudley said drivers feeling fatigued should avoid hitting the road.

"If you're going to sleep at the wheel, normally really bad things happen and it’s almost as dangerous as driving while impaired," Dudley said.