Parent: Lack of communication following Raleigh school bus crash

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A wreck involving a Wake County school bus that injured five Cary High School students triggered a breakdown in communication and some parental panic.

A wreck involving a Wake County school bus that injured five Cary High School students triggered a breakdown in communication and some parental panic Monday.

On a typical day, the Cary High School bus involved in the wreck would have finished its route then started a new route with students from Northwoods Elementary in Cary. However, because of the wreck, some Northwoods Elementary School students were left waiting for hours at the school and parents said they were given little information.

"That's the alert right there... '5 students injured in Raleigh school bus accident,'" George Thorn said as he pointed to the breaking news alert from his ABC11 mobile app.

The single dad from east Raleigh said he started to panic after he clicked on the headline. The bus involved was number 1186, the same bus that takes Thorne's 7-year-old son, Akhy, to and from Northwoods Elementary every day.

"I'm automatically thinking my child was on that bus," Thorne recounted.

Thorne said he immediately jumped in his car.

"I go to WakeMed, check the emergency room, then I called Rex Hospital, and they say [my son] wasn't there".

Finally at 5:00, nearly a half hour after Akhy was due home, Thorne called the school.

"Someone there told me that wasn't his bus - but his bus is going to be late, an hour late. My question is why didn't someone inform me that his bus is going to be late?" Thorne asked. "So OK, God forbid he wasn't in the accident, but they should let us know something. Where is he? Where is he?"

All Thorne could do was wait. More than two-and-a-half hours went by and his second grader was still not home. He called the school again and got voicemail.

Thorne got another voicemail recording at the WCPSS Transportation office phone number. He said no one called him back after his initial phone call 90 minutes prior.

ABC11 was able to reach a Wake Schools spokesperson on the phone who told us the bus scheduled to pick up Thorne's son from school was likely delayed because it was involved in that earlier wreck.

The school system said decisions to call parents about bus delays are based on individual situations. Only the district has the capacity to send out automated text alerts. Individual schools cannot.

It was 6:30 p.m. when Akhy's bus finally dropped him off.

"I don't know what happened. There was a substitute driver. It was late," Akhy told his father.

"There's a lot of questions to be answered, but we're going to find out exactly what happened," Thorne said.

A Wake Schools spokesperson said she would seek clarification from the principal at Northwoods Elementary about the parental notification process.

The district said its first priority in these situations is ensuring student safety, then alerting parents.

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