Wellington school bus crashes on northbound Missouri 291 Highway at River Bend

SUGAR CREEK, Mo. - The Wellington-Napoleon varsity boys and girls basketball teams spent Thursday afternoon surrounded by the wreckage of a head-on collision after their bus was involved in a crash.

"The highway patrol was there assessing students already talking with students talking with some of our coaches they were working with the driver extricating the other passenger out of the vehicle," Mindy Hampton, superintendent of Wellington-Napoleon R-IX said.

Thirty-two students and four adults were on board the school bus heading to a game at North Platte High School.

The Missouri Highway Patrol says a wrong-way driver went south in the northbound lanes of highway 291 near Highway 210 hitting the bus.

The driver of the car died. He has been identified as John Gaage, 32, of Independence. The bus driver went to Liberty Hospital with back pain.

"Students were in the median, our coaches were talking with them, consoling them getting them some medical information from so ems could come through and treat them," Hampton said.

A second bus took the students back to Wellington where paramedics were standing by to check them out a second time.

"The students were emotional when they got back into the building and now the adrenaline is settling down and they're starting to realize what's happened and how lucky they were," Hampton said.

The school district earlier in the week was already planning to conduct a drill in case of a bus accident.

"Most of the conversations we had were about bus routes not being 40 minutes away from school and how we would contact our parents and our patrons all of that was executed very smoothly tonight," Hampton said.

She told 41 Action News the bus involved in Thursday's wreck didn't have any seatbelts installed.

The district is working to reschedule the basketball game that was set to take place Thursday.

Investigators are working to find out if alcohol or drugs may have caused the wreck.

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