GERRY - Members of the Dunkirk High School girls' track and field team were counting themselves fortunate after being involved in a two-vehicle accident Monday on Route 60.
"Amazingly enough," Dunkirk track and field coach A.J. Burnside began, "most girls are going to walk out of the (emergency room) with smiles on their faces. I'm just thankful they're walking out."
Precautions were taken, of course, but Burnside was confident they had escaped the worst.
OBSERVER Photo by Chip Riewaldt
A school bus and SUV were involved in a crash on Route 60 in Gerry Monday afternoon. More than a dozen local agencies worked together at the crash site to help transport victims to area hospitals.
"Originally when it happened, a few of the girls were complaining about headaches," he said. "The adrenaline hid the first round of bumps and bruises. An hour after it happened, we had shipped about 15 girls to different hospitals. After that, we decided it's better just to send all the girls. Better safe than sorry."
Burnside credits prompt action on the part of his assistant coach, Robert Rosas, as a major reason injuries were limited after both the SUV and the bus carrying the team ended up in the ditch on the side of the road.
"It was amazing how quickly Coach Rosas handled the situation," Burnside explained. "It was amazing how both of us knew the role we had to play. While he was checking on the girls who were still on the bus, I was (gathering) them across the street.
"It's one of those things you practice, but you hope you never have to use," he continued.
The girls took shelter in a barn across the street from the scene, where everyone gathered themselves after a scary situation.
"Shock really set in," Burnside continued. "There was a lot of screaming, but very few tears. The girls were more concerned about the other driver after they saw the car."
Burnside suggested his girls take today off from school as to avoid further emotional trauma.
"It's going to be hard to get back into any regularity of life," he said. "Everyone's going to ask them about (the accident) and they're going to be talking about it. Every time they tell the story, they're going to relive it. It's going to wear on them mentally and emotionally. The emotional part is going to take a bigger toll than the physical part ever will.
Burnside sends his thanks to everyone involved with the aftermath, including numerous personnel from nearby Cassadaga Valley Central School and the man who allowed the girls to take shelter in his barn and use the bathroom in his house.
"Outstanding gentleman," Burnside remarked.