GEORGE COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Thirteen-year-old Trace Pope just narrowly missed getting seriously hurt Wednesday when the bus he had just left was smashed in the back by another bus. Thursday's drop off was much less traumatic.
One day after the two-bus accident on Highway 26 sent 20 children to the hospital, there were some children who stayed off the bus in George County. But even so, there are parents and students who still have faith in the bus system, including the driver whose bus slammed into the back of another.
That driver, 59-year-old Jerry Holder, is still in the hospital after having surgery on Thursday.
Trace's mother, Dana Pope, had no problems with him getting on the bus even for a field trip to Biloxi.
"He said, 'I'm kind of nervous about going on a field trip after all this.' And I just said, 'Son, chances of two wrecks on back to back days is probably not going to happen.'"
But some of the younger children who ride on his bus were a little more frightened.
"There wasn't that many kids on the bus today," Trace said. "Probably about seven elementary school kids. None of them got on the bus today. I don't blame them."
The accident happened in front of the home of Trace's grandmother, Jean Pope. But she, likewise, is calm about the accident, although her younger grandson, fifth-grader Hunter Pope, had a ride to school.
"I think it will all be worked out," she said. "And we're not worried about it. Accidents happen. And we are so blessed that nobody was hurt bad or killed."
Jerry Holder told WLOX News it was an accident that he absolutely regrets. He said he was distracted by children yelling his name.
Holder, who said he is a county employee, told us he has no legal representation and he's not sure what will happen to his job. But he said he loves children and that hurting them is last thing he would want to do.
It was a story corroborated by ninth-grader Hannah Sherman, who was on the bus Wednesday and has ridden in his bus since she was in first grade.
"He's an excellent bus driver. He's sweet, he's kind, he never did any harm to anybody," she said. "If he started to drive again, I'd love to ride on his bus again."