June 26, 2019

Felony charges for driver who hit school bus

New charges filed March 14 in collision

An impaired driver whose car struck a school bus and injured children in December now faces additional charges.

As the result of continued investigation, the NC State Highway Patrol has filed additional charges against Kimberly Ann Austin, 56, of Taylorsville, in connection to her collision with a school bus in Alexander County on December 17, 2018, according to Jeffrey S. Swagger, Master Trooper with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.

Troopers sought warrants for eight counts of Felony Serious Injury by Vehicle by causing serious injury while engaged in the offense of impaired driving. The Highway Patrol arrested Austin on Thursday evening, March 14, 2019, and she was held at the Alexander County Detention Center under a $500,000 bond.

Kimberly Austin

West Alexander Middle School Bus 159, transporting Alexander County Schools students, overturned on Icard Ridge Road, about 1/4 mile south of West Alexander Middle School, around 7:30 a.m. on the morning of Monday, December 17, 2018.

Swagger stated that on Dec. 17, 2018, “at approximately 7:36 a.m., the NC Highway Patrol responded to a school bus collision in Alexander County on Icard Ridge Road. The school bus was transporting West Alexander Middle School children when the collision occurred approximately three-tenths of a mile south of the school. According to the initial investigation, a Toyota passenger car was traveling south on Icard Ridge Road, crossed the centerline, and collided with the school bus. The bus continued off the roadway and overturned.”

“The passenger car was operated by Kimberly Ann Austin, and there was a 10 year-old passenger in her car at the time of the collision. There was another child in the vehicle prior to the collision. Austin was transported to Frye Regional Medical Center,” according to Trooper Swagger.

“The school bus was occupied by an adult driver and 19 children. Thirteen children and the bus driver were transported by EMS units from Alexander, Catawba, and Caldwell counties to various hospitals to include Catawba Valley Medical Center, Frye Regional Medical Center, and Caldwell Memorial Hospital. Twelve of the injured were categorized as minor and one was listed in critical condition. Six children from the bus were not injured and taken to the school. The children were able to escape or be removed from the bus via the emergency exit door.

In December, Troopers charged Austin with Driving While Impaired and driving Left of Center, Trooper Swagger stated. A blood test was conducted and the results were received this week, which prompted the felony charges.

Also in December, Austin was charged with two counts of misdemeanor child abuse. Sheriff Chris Bowman stated that Austin had one child in the car with her at the time of the crash, and had just dropped off another child a short time earlier.

Trooper D.L. Taylor told The Times March 14 that, due to their injuries from the collision, some of the student victims were still having a difficult time with physical recovery, some three months after the wreck.

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