A school bus driver failed to report an accident on Thursday and told the Peekskill students on the bus, who claimed to be injured, not to tell people about the incident.
Joaquin Sherwood, a bus driver for Miles Square Transportation which has the contract to provide transportation for the Peekskill School District, reportedly struck another vehicle in between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. on Elm Street on his way to dropping off students at Hillcrest Elementary School.
Sherwood, a 25-year-old Peekskill resident, did not notify the school or police.
“Instead he told the children who had complained to him that they were injured to not tell anybody,” Peekskill Police Lt. Eric Johansen said.
Sherwood did notify the Miles Square Transportation dispatcher, according to Johansen, but the company did not inform the police.
“We were not made aware of [the accident] until children at the Hillcrest Elementary School began to complain to their teachers that they were injured in an automobile accident and that they were in a bus crash that morning,” Johansen said.
Once the school notified a police officer that was on the premise to teach the D.A.R.E. program the Peekskill police began an investigation.
“We do not know the identity or driver of the other vehicle,” Johansen said. “We do not even know if the other vehicle was in motion, it may have been a parked car.”
“All parents were notified immediately,” Peekskill Superintendent Jim Willis said.
After the school nurse evaluated all of the children from the bus, they were brought to Hudson Valley Hospital Center in Cortlandt Manor to be checked out.
Of the 20 students, seven were transported to the hospital by ambulance, nine by bus, and four were taken to the hospital by their parents.
“The injuries that were complained on were mostly bumps and bruises, headaches, neck and back pain,” said Johansen. “There were some complaints that we think were primarily anxiety issues that was brought up on them from the stress of the situation.”
All student injuries were minor appeared to be minor.
A hospital employee confirmed that although the children came through the Hudson Valley Hospital Center’s emergency room, the incident was never considered an emergency. “The students were checked out and then they were released to their parents,” the source said.
Sherwood has been arrested for endangering the welfare of a minor and leaving the scene of a personal-injury accident.
“The fact that the guy had an accident is understandable; it happens,” said Johansen. “The fact that this individual who is trusted with our most precious asset—our children—chose to ignore that they were injured and in fact encouraged them to cover that up is inexcusable.”
While Johansen thinks that the alleged actions of the Miles Square Transportation employee was wrong he said that the school district acted appropriately to the circumstance.
“They notified us right away,” Johansen said. “There was a DARE officer in the school, they notified her right away and we took over from there. They acted more than appropriately in this situation.”
“At all times, the focus of our staff was on the well-being of our students,” said Willis. “I am proud of the dedication, professionalism, and concern that they demonstrated this morning.”
“There is no comment,” said a woman who answered the phones at Miles Square Transportation on John Walsh Blvd. in Peekskill as she abruptly hung up the phone.
In August, Sherwood was appointed by the Peekskill Board of Education as a substitute custodian for the 2011-12 school year.
The school district had no comment when asked if Sherwood would remain in that capacity.
Sherwood is scheduled to be in court on Monday, Nov. 21 at 11 a.m.
The Peekskill police and the school district are continuing to investigate the bus incident.