HEBRON — Eight Oxford Hills School District middle and high school students were treated at Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway for back and neck injuries, and shock after a head-on collision between a car and a school bus Tuesday afternoon on Route 119.
The driver of the car, 19-year-old Brandon Buffington, of Paris, was listed in critical condition Tuesday night at Central Maine Medical Center. Early in the day, his grandfather, Deputy Chief Willie Buffington of the Paris Fire Department said he was being treated for possible broken legs and a broken arm.
Eighteen students were on the bus when Buffington's 1999 Audi A4 veered across the road and smashed directly into the front of the bus, police said.
Oxford County Lt. Brian Landis said the students’ ages ranged from about 12 to 16 and they live in Hebron, Buckfield and Oxford. Bus driver Stephanie Rowe of Paris was not injured, he said.
Buffington, a student at an Auburn vocational training center, was driving west on Route 119 near the Hebron/Paris town line shortly before 2:30 p.m. when he veered into the bus. The impact apparently sent the car into a spin, where it landed off the road headed east.
Deputy Chief Buffington said he arrived at the scene in a squad truck, not knowing his grandson was involved. He jumped out of the truck right behind the bus, grabbed a generator and ran to the side of the bus where he saw the back of his grandson's car.
Buffington said his grandson, who was taken by ambulance to the playing fields at Hebron Academy and flown by LifeFlight helicopter to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, appeared to have suffered broken bones.
“He's young and strong," the grandfather said. "He'll be able to recover with time.”
A witness who was driving directly behind Brandon Buffington told the Sun Journal that he saw the Audi swerve in front of the bus.
“He just swerved in front of the bus and that was it,” said Isaiah Carro, 23, of Paris, who was also on his way home from Auburn.
“It may have been an over-correction," Carro said. "The car did a very quick jerk.” He estimated the cars were driving between 30 and 45 mph. The speed limit on that state highway is 45, Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant said.
Carro said he stopped his car and ran over to help the driver.
“I didn't know what I was going to see," Carro said. "I heard a moaning. I tried to rip the door open, but his legs were under the steering wheel. He tried to pull himself out.” Carro said he had to wait for firefighters to arrive with a Jaws of Life to pull the roof off the car. The impact of the accident blew the sneakers off his grandson, Willie Buffington said.
The students who were not taken to the hospital were placed in another bus and taken from the accident scene. SAD 17 Transportation Director David Fontaine helped the students make the transfer.
Superintendent Rick Colpitts said none of the student injuries were believed to be life-threatening.
Police on the scene closed a portion of the road to allow only medical responders and a reconstruction team that were still at the site at 5 p.m. The team includes a state police commercial vehicle inspection unit as well as two state troopers and sheriff’s deputies.
The cause of the accident remained under investigation Tuesday night.