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Rockingham County Schools release statement after bus driver saves students in tractor-trailer crash

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(WGHP)

ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, N.C. — Rockingham County Schools released a statement Tuesday after a bus driver and coach saved a bus full of students Monday.

“We are very proud of his [Darryl Thomas’] courageous efforts and he appreciates all the kind thoughts of his quick thinking while driving the bus. He is a little shook up regarding the situation,” the statement said.

The activity bus Thomas was driving was sideswiped by a tractor-trailer on N.C. 135, according to the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.

The tractor-trailer driver, 54-year-old Charles Edward Hill, of Eden, died at the scene after crashing into a tree.

“Everybody was like, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, we just had a crash,'” said 13-year-old Ajahna Miller, a student on the bus.

None of the 42 students or the two coaches on the bus were severely injured.

Officials say the tractor-trailer side-swiped the bus, causing the side mirrors to smack into each other.

Xavier Searcy, 14, remembers glass flying everywhere.

“Like everybody got hit with glass,” Searcy said. “People were getting cut and headaches and stuff.”

Officials say the activity bus came to a stop, but the tractor-trailer kept going and crashed into a tree.

Miller says students walked away safely thanks to their coach and bus driver Darryl Thomas, of Madison, who quickly moved the bus out the way when he saw the truck coming and kept students calm.

“I’m grateful for him,” Miller said. “I think he’s a hero for doing what he did, and I just want to tell him, ‘Thank you.'”

The North Carolina State Highway Patrol is investigating to see if a medical condition may have caused Hill to drift and may be the cause of death.

Officials say neither alcohol nor speed were factors in the crash.