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VSP Investigate Fatal Crash at School Bus Stop in Buckingham County

Posted: Updated: Mar 30, 2017 06:18 PM
Virginia State Police investigating a fatal crash on Route 15 in Buckingham County Virginia State Police investigating a fatal crash on Route 15 in Buckingham County
Tori Perez.  Photo provided by family. Tori Perez. Photo provided by family.
Flyer for an event to help the families of Tori Perez and Jaiden Bartee Flyer for an event to help the families of Tori Perez and Jaiden Bartee
Corinne Geller Corinne Geller
Virginia State Police on the scene of a fatal crash in Buckingham County Virginia State Police on the scene of a fatal crash in Buckingham County
BUCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) -

A small community just outside Dillwyn in Buckingham County is grieving the loss of two children.

Five-year-old Tori Perez and 6-year-old Jaiden Bartee died Thursday morning after being struck by a tractor-trailer.

Family members say the two children were cousins. Both were students at Buckingham County Primary School.

Virginia State Police say Tori and Jaiden were waiting at their bus stop on Route 15, near Baptist Union Road, with four other students.

According to investigators, the school bus was traveling south, coming over a hill on Route 15, and slowing for a bus stop on the north side of the road. Tori and Jaiden ran across the road to the bus as it was slowing to a stop. The bus only had its yellow lights flashing at the time.

An oncoming tractor-trailer in the northbound lane immediately hit the brakes. It was transporting 75,000 pounds of mulch and in a 50-mile per hour zone.

The family says an uncle was at the bus stop waiting for the children to board. He and the bus driver tried to stop Tori and Jaiden, but it happened too fast.

The two children were hit by the tractor-trailer, both died at the scene.

"There was nobody at fault, and the thing happened so quickly. You can imagine children dart and move very quickly. The bus had not come to a complete stop. The tractor trailer was coming downhill," said Corinne Geller with the Virginia State Police.

Buckingham County School Superintendent Dr. Cecil Snead said nothing like this has ever happened before.

"It was a great weight and a sad sadness that I still haven't really reconciled with yet," he said.

The school board is doing what they can to provide support to the students, family, and community.

"We've deployed school psychologists counselors. We've had help from around our surrounding counties," said Snead.

They say the next steps from here are to work through the grief and prevent this from happening again.

"We've had a tragedy in our school community, and we're working through that, and to reassure parents that there are support services in place for their kids tomorrow," the superintendent said.

Virginia State Police say based on witness accounts and their investigation, the 66-year-old driver of the tractor-trailer is not facing charges. Investigators say both the truck and the driver were in compliance with state regulations.

Updated Virginia State Police Media Release
03/30/2017, 4:50 p.m.


At 7:42 a.m., Thursday (March 30), Virginia State Police Trooper C.S. Thackston responded to a fatal crash in Buckingham County. The crash occurred on Route 15 near Baptist Union Road/Route 692, just north of the community of Dillwyn.

After viewing the video obtained from the school bus…it has been confirmed that the school bus made a right turn from Route 692/Baptist Union Road onto Route 15 to head south and proceed approximately 200 yards to its next stop. As the bus approached the children who were standing off the north side of Route 15, two of the six children ran across the northbound travel lane towards the bus. The bus had only its yellow flashing lights activated.

A tractor-trailer traveling north on Route 15 crested the hill and immediately began braking in an attempt to stop for the two children. But, the tractor-trailer was traveling downhill and was fully-loaded with 75,000 lbs of mulch.

The bus driver told State Police that when she realized the tractor-trailer was not going to be able to stop in time, she frantically began motioning to the children to stop and get back off the side of the road.

The children, Tori Perez, 5, and Jaiden Bartee, 6, were struck by the tractor-trailer and both died at the scene.

There were no other injuries in the incident. The four other children at the bus stop stayed on the side of the road and none of them was injured.

The Virginia State Police Appomattox Division’s Accident Reconstruction Team responded to the scene to assist with the crash investigation.

The Virginia State Police Motor Carrier Safety Team responded to the scene to examine the tractor-trailer. Further investigation by the troopers resulted in the tractor-trailer being placed out of service due to several equipment violations. However, none of the violations would have had an impact on the vehicle’s ability to stop or avoid the crash. The 66-year-old male driver from Dillwyn, Va., has a valid commercial driver’s license.

Based on the witness accounts and the crash investigation, no charges will be placed.

Route 15 was reopened to through traffic at 12:00 p.m. Thursday.

03/30/2017 Release from the Virginia State Police:

At 7:42 a.m., Thursday (March 30), Virginia State Police responded to a fatal crash in Buckingham County.

The crash occurred on Route 15 near Baptist Union Road in Dillwyn.

A tractor-trailer traveling along Route 15 struck two children approaching a school bus.

Both children died at the scene.

The Virginia State Police Appomattox Division’s Accident Reconstruction Team and Virginia State Police Motor Carrier Safety Team are on scene assisting with the ongoing crash investigation.