Football players are used to getting hit on the field. But the biggest danger for the Alice Drive Middle School football team wasn’t the opposing team in Saturday’s scrimmage.
Instead, several students and their coach were taken to the hospital after their school activity bus crashed off U.S. 521 on their way home from the game.
The bus was leaving Donald L. Crolley Memorial Stadium, where they were scrimmaging with other area middle schools Saturday morning. About 12:20 p.m., a car in front of the bus reportedly slammed on brakes north of Frierson Road. The bus, which was carrying 35 passengers, ran off the highway to avoid the car and struck a group of trees.
Thirteen students and the team’s coach, Billy Ray Geddings, who was also driving the bus, were triaged at the scene by Emergency Medical Services and transported by ambulance to Tuomey Regional Medical Center. At least 13 other students and one other coach were driven from the scene of the wreck by parents and teachers to be checked out at the hospital.
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Sumter School District spokeswoman Shelly Galloway said none of the injuries from the wreck appeared to be life-threatening, and a report by S.C. Highway Patrol described all injuries as minor. By 5 p.m., all students had been released except for one student who was transported to a Columbia hospital as a precautionary measure. Galloway wouldn’t elaborate on why the student required further treatment.
All the students involved are eighth-graders at Alice Drive Middle. Other students on the bus who were uninjured, along with riders on a second team bus that was not involved in the wreck, were taken to Alice Drive Middle School where they were released to their parents.
Several parents and teachers who were also driving back from the game stopped at the scene of the wreck, with cars parking along both sides of U.S. 521 and filling the median. Law enforcement had to close the southbound lane of the highway while first responders worked to clear the scene.
“I was behind the second bus, and I just saw them slow down and pull over,” said Lawrence Dozier Sr., whose youngest son was riding on the second bus, “when I drove by the wreck and said ‘oh, my God.’”
Several parents whose children weren’t driven away by ambulance drove to Tuomey themselves to have their children checked out. The 13-year-old son of Alice Drive teacher Beverly Dawkins was uninjured in the wreck, but she ended up driving another coach to the hospital to be examined and sat with some of the other players, many of whom are her students.
“When I got to the scene, I was checking on the ones who were on (EMS) backboards and let them use my cellphone to call their parents,” she said. “I was just worrying about their hearts.”
Geddings, the driver, was placed in a neck brace and placed on a back board for transport as a precaution but was conscious at the scene, according to district Athletic Director Rick Avins, who spoke with the coach at the hospital.
“He was more concerned about his players than himself,” Avins said.
Cpl. Judd Jones with Highway Patrol said Geddings would be cited for driving too fast for conditions in the wreck. The school district declined to comment on the citation Saturday.
Tyreek Richburg was one of the players on the bus. The 15-year-old guard and tackle was sitting in a wheelchair in the Tuomey waiting area with his family waiting to be seen for a knee injury.
“I looked up, and I saw a car, it looked like a Mercury, kinda like it was going to turn, and then it just slammed on brakes. And before we got in the other lane, there was a car over there, so we went to the side,” he said.
After the wreck, Tyreek described seeing his teammates injured, including one boy whose face was covered in blood.
“It was bad,” he said.
His mother, Tomeka Bowman, wasn’t at the scrimmage but rushed to the scene of the wreck when she heard and then drove to meet him at the hospital.
“My phone’s been ringing so much it feels like everybody’s been calling me,” she said.
Tyreek’s grandmother Doris Gates drove from Columbia to be with her grandson.
“My heart started beating” when she heard about the wreck, Gates said, but she was relieved to see he was OK.
Tyreek was able to keep his day in perspective. He told his mother they tied their scrimmage.
Reach Bristow Marchant at (803) 774-1272.