KINGSTON – A car carrying four Silver Lake Regional High School juniors collided with an empty school bus near the entrance to the school this morning, injuring the students and the school bus driver just hours before the school’s highly anticipated junior prom.
“The prom is on,’’ John Tuffy, the school superintendent, said in a telephone interview this afternoon. “That’s official. The prom is on.’’
According to Tuffy and Kingston Police Chief Joseph J. Rebello, three girls and one boy were injured in the 7:15 a.m. crash, which took place on Lake Street when the car crossed over the yellow line and smashed head-on into the school bus.
The students were so seriously injured that the school’s football field was used as a landing pad for two Boston MedFlight helicopters to transport patients to Boston.
Principal Richard J. Kelley said three of the injured students were being treated at Boston Medical Center and one was at South Shore Medical Center in Weymouth. The school bus driver, who is a woman, was also taken to an area hospital.
For at least eight years, Silver Lake’s prom night has begun at the school. Students gather at the cafeteria and then promenade through the gymnasium where a red carpet is literally rolled out. Parents sit in the stands, armed with cameras, Tuffy said.
Students then board buses for the prom itself, which is being held at a Randolph banquet hall tonight. “It’s a big deal and it’s pretty cool,’’ Tuffy said. The system draws students from Kingston, Halifax and Plympton.
At the 1,200-student school today, Kelley said that after discussions with parents, students, faculty, and police, he decided to hold the prom as scheduled because it will provide a safe space for students to gather with their peers.
“If they’re going to try to get together, it’s better for them to be in a safe and controlled environment,” Kelley said. “Obviously, it’s not going to be the celebration they intended.”
Students who bought tickets for the junior prom but are too upset to go will be able to attend the senior prom on May 18 at no additional charge, the administrators said.
Kelley said he spoke with the parents of the students involved in the accident—and broke the news to some of them. The injured students are from Halifax and Plympton.
“It’s the worst call a parent can get,” Kelley said. “It was hard for me to hear. So multiply that by a gazillion for these parents.”
About 300 students were signed out early by their parents today. Some were signed out so they could get ready for the prom, Kelley said, though he believed the majority of students left because they were distraught about the news.
At the scene, a red BMW was jammed into the front grill of the bus. It appeared to have almost completely crossed the double yellow lines on the street before slamming into the bus.
Tuffy said the school system activated its crisis intervention team today and allowed students to leave with their parents if they found it too difficult to remain in school. He said students were not being allowed to drive themselves home.
“We have a crisis team in place. I will say I am not sure we ever expected to use it for an accident at 7:30 on a bright, sunny morning on the day of the junior prom,’’ he said.
He said the student body is taking it hard.
“They are surprised, shocked,’’ Tuffy said.
The cause of the crash is under investigation by Kingston police and the crash analysis unit of the State Police, Chief Rebello told reporters at the scene.