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At least 22 taken to hospital in school bus crash involving tractor-trailer in Highlands County

Student: crash happened so fast, it was scary
Posted at 8:53 AM, Dec 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-14 17:30:41-05

HIGHLANDS COUNTY, Fla. — At least 22 people were taken to the hospital after a crash involving a school bus and a tractor-trailer Wednesday morning in Highlands County.

The school bus was carrying 39 students when it was traveling north on US 27 in the right lane, approaching Lake Ridge Drive around 7:42 a.m. Wednesday morning. At the same time, a tractor-trailer was traveling north on US 27 in the right lane, some distance behind the bus.

The bus came to a stop at Lake Ridge Drive to allow students to allow students to load the bus. FHP reports that the bus had its flashing lights on, warning other driver's that it was stopped, at the time of the crash.

The driver of the tractor-trailer, Stanley Lockwood, 45, of Orlando, failed to stop in time and struck the rear end of the bus, according to FHP. The school bus was pushed onto the east shoulder of US 27 and overturned onto its left side.

RELATED: Highlands Co. District to evaluate bus safety after crash involving semi

FHP reports that two students were airlifted to Tampa General Hospital with serious injuries.

Florida Hospital Heartland Medical Lake Placid says they treated 20 patients from the crash, including the school bus driver. All of the patients treated at Florida Hospital Heartland were released after being treated for their non-life threatening injuries.

"You see all the kids crying, all the kids were in shock," said parent Christine Padilla. "I thought I was going to lose her." 

Padilla rushed out of work Wednesday morning when she got several text messages about the crash. 

At the center of it all, her 12-year-old daughter, Christina, who was sitting next to a window. 

She tells ABC Action News, moments after the tractor-trailer slammed into them, several students toppled on top of her as the school bus tipped over. 

"It was scary, it happened so fast," Christina described as tears fell from her face. 

RELATED: Doctor says seat belts would have prevented some injuries in school bus crash

Officials with the Florida Hospital Heartland Medical Lake Placid say that only one student was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash. They do believe that some of the second-impact injuries may have been prevented if more students were wearing seat belts.

Lockwood has been charged with careless driving.