Tuesday, April 09, 2013 6:41 pm
Students in NM school bus crash undergo surgery
By RUSSELL CONTRERASAssociated Press
Mesa Vista superintendent Tracie Phillips said the 16-year-old female student with a broken jaw successfully finished surgery at about 2 a.m. Tuesday and was doing well. She and eight other students were injured Monday after authorities said their school bus went off a road and crashed in an embankment near La Madera in Carson National Forest.
Investigators say the driver, Pat Valdez, 69, died at the scene. The cause of the crash is still unknown, but authorities believe a "medical event" might have been a factor.
Philips said both students were treated at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque. She said another student who suffered a broken back might still undergo surgery.
The bus was carrying nine elementary, middle and high school students at the time of the crash.
School officials said the students were headed to Ojo Caliente Elementary, Mesa Vista Middle and Mesa Vista High schools from Vallecitos in northern Rio Arriba County.
Seventh-grader Xavier Varela told the Albuquerque Journal the accident occurred without warning.
"I was listening to music, and all of a sudden the bus comes off the road," he said outside a hospital in Espanola, where he was evaluated and released. "I was the only one who stayed in the seat; everyone else was on the floor."
A day after the crash, Philips said students were working to get through the day by talking about the tragedy. "We also had a lot of absences, but that is to be expected with something like this," she said.
Funeral services for Valdez have not been announced.
The isolated Mesa Vista Consolidated School District is in El Rito, about 120 miles north of Albuquerque. It has an enrollment of close to 400 students.
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