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Cleveland Student Describes Close Call In Rural Bus Stop Crash

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CLEVELAND, Oklahoma -

A school bus crash in Cleveland sent four students to the hospital Wednesday morning. Twenty-six students were on board when a pickup slammed into the bus at a rural bus stop. A 10-year-old girl was about to cross the street at the time of the crash, but says something stopped her.

"Our driver made every attempt to get the driver's, that was coming at him, attention,” CPS superintendent Aaron Espolt said. “He also tried to open the window and get that young lady back away from the road because it was a very dangerous situation."

At 10 years old, Johnnie Vaughn seems to understand the close call she had Wednesday morning.

“I called my mom and I was crying and said, 'I could have got killed,'” she said.

When Johnnie headed to get on the school bus, parked across the street from her driveway, she says she noticed a pickup driving fast down her country road.

“When I saw it and it didn't stop, I was like, 'Somethings bad gonna happen,'” she said.

Johnnie was right, she says the truck slammed into the front of the school bus.

2/10/2016 Related Story: Students Treated For Injuries In Cleveland School Bus Wreck

Pictures from The Cleveland American show the pickup scrapped down the side of the bus, then crashed to a stop behind the bus.

“All I felt was like the bus go like this... and then like my head slammed against the window, and I just didn't know what was happening,” 14-year-old Samantha Ronistal said.

Twenty-six students were on the bus, including Samantha and her brothers Joseph and Ian. In all, four were taken to a hospital to be checked out for non-life threatening injuries.

“It's just scary. I wouldn't think someone would have to get into that kind of crash,” 11-year-old Joseph said.

Joseph will be on crutches for a few days. and Ian has a busted lip. The Ronistals stayed home for the day, but the students on that bus who went to school met with crisis counselors before going back to class. Johnnie said that helped, but didn’t keep her from thinking about what happened.

“When I got at school, every once in a while I would have a flashback, but of me not stopping and it got really scary,” Johnnie said. 

And while Johnnie still is shaken, she and her mother are certain of one thing -- someone was watching over her, keeping her from crossing the street.

“It felt like somebody was pulling me back and holding me,” Johnnie said.

“It's God that protected her from the debris, the tire that broke off. The guy that hit the bus could have swerved her way,” her mother Sharon said. 

“I 'm thankful. And when I picked her up we just hugged and that made me feel better.”

Cleveland Superintendent Aaron Espolt says the bus driver did everything right. He was stopped and had the stop sign out and the lights were flashing. 

Even so, Espolt says the district will do more to make bus stops safer.

“The school district will be working with the county commissioner's office to provide more safety signs out there and get more bus signs and bus warnings for drivers as well to make sure they understand that our students need to be protected," Espolt said.

The superintendent added it’s also the responsibility of other drivers to make sure they’re paying attention, regardless of whether they’re driving in town or on a back country road.

“We want to make sure we follow our procedures, that we're doing everything we possibly can. Our drivers are trained,” Espolt said.

“We just ask that all drivers out there are trying to be vigilant and watch for our school buses. Watch for our kids. We drive on a lot of rural roads that is difficult and in the mornings or afternoons know our school buses are on the roads, so please take precautions.”

Espolt says first responders did a tremendous job of making a hectic scene feel less chaotic.

In a collision report released Wednesday evening, OHP identified the driver as 19-year-old Jacob K. Young of Cleveland. He was treated and released for injuries to his head and arms.

Troopers say he was in apparently normal condition at the time of the wreck but failed to yield, causing the crash.

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