By Tim Eberly
The Montana Highway Patrol charged a road-grader driver with a misdemeanor offense for his role in a collision that overturned a school bus carrying 20 children, a Phillips County judge said today.
The Highway Patrol charged Jack Munsinger, 61, a city shop employee in Dodson, with failure to drive on the right side of the road, Justice of the Peace Gayle Stahl said. The misdemeanor offense carries a $70 fine, and Munsinger must appear in Phillips County Justice Court on or before April 15, Stahl said.
Munsinger could not be reached for comment.
While plowing snow early Tuesday on Route 204 south of Dodson, Munsinger drove southbound on the wrong side of the road while another county employee trailed behind him on the correct side, the Highway Patrol said last week.
The primary factor in the accident thick fog limited visibility to between 50 and 100 feet, and a Dodson School bus carrying students struck Munsinger's vehicle at 7:35 a.m., the Highway Patrol said.
The school bus, which was traveling at roughly 40 mph, hit the right front wheel of the grader and the blade. It pivoted into the opposite lane of traffic and toppled over on its left side, partially in a roadside ditch.
The grader landed in the roadside ditch across from the school bus, the highway patrol said.
Neither Munsinger nor the school bus driver, 50-year-old Don Wilkes, were seriously injured. Both were treated and released from Fort Belknap Health Center that day.
The children, ranging in age from 5 to 16, were transported to Phillips County Hospital, and four were later taken to Northern Montana Hospital for further treatment. Several students suffered broken bones, lacerations and bruises, but none were seriously injured.