Truck Hits N.C. School Bus; Four Killed

Four people died Monday when the truck they were riding in rear-ended a school bus and then caught fire, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol (search) said.

Forty students were on the bus when the crash occurred, Perquimans County Schools (search) spokeswoman Brenda Lassiter told The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va. Four children and the truck driver were transported to Chowan Hospital by ambulance.

The bus driver and 36 children were taken to the hospital as a precaution.

One student later was sent to Pitt County Memorial Hospital (search) in Greenville for additional observation, Lassiter said.

The school bus had just made its last stop about three miles west of Hertford about 7:15 a.m. when the truck hit the bus, 1st Sgt. J.S. Hardison of the Highway Patrol said. The bus, which had run off the road, bounced back up onto the road, where it hit the truck a second time and then caught fire, Hardison said.

Earl Ward of Belvidere said he saw part of the accident and pulled over to help.

"We helped get the driver out of the truck," Ward said. "He was calling for help. We did the best that we could."

Bus driver Zita Ferebee got the students off the bus through an emergency exit in the back, Lassiter said. Other passers-by helped break the glass on the bus' back door and pulled the children from the bus.

The fire spread to the back of the bus by the time Ferebee had finished checking for children, Lassiter said.

The names of the victims and the status of the injured were not immediately available.