Updated at 6:22 p.m.
By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
A school bus carrying the Toledo-Winlock High School soccer team ran off Interstate 5 last night, coming to rest about 75 feet away at the bottom of a ravine.
No serious injuries were reported, and responders found only superficial injuries, according to Lewis County Fire District 15.
Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Anderson said the bus was carrying 37 individuals.
Firefighters called at 10:05 p.m. found the bus wheels down in a muddy, grassy area to the northeast of the exit 63 freeway interchange.
The bus was northbound and exiting the freeway, when the driver began shouting for everyone to hold on, according a spokesperson for the Washington State Patrol.
The 2009 Thomas full-sized yellow bus traveled through the stop sign at the end of the ramp and continued on, according to the state patrol.
“The driver said he went to hit the brakes, there were no brakes,” Lewis County Medic One Paramedic Jim Akramoff. said. “They just went straight, over 505, there’s a pretty good embankment there.”
The team was returning home from a game in Vancouver, Anderson said.
Anderson noted in a news release it sounded as though the driver did a tremendous job helping keep the situation from being any worse than it was.
Driver Ronnie H. Withrow, 53, missed a sign and a guard rail, navigating a fairly narrow space between the two, according to responders.
About 25 firefighters from Districts 15 and 2, as well as Lewis County Medic 1 paramedics responded, using lighting from their rigs to illuminate the area.
Responders went seat to seat on the bus evaluating the patients, Akramoff said. It took just over an hour from the time they arrived until the youngsters were taken away by other school busses, he said.
“Believe it or not, it went very smooth,” Akramoff said.
The passengers were described as 32 players, mostly teenage boys, along with two coaches and two managers.
“Pretty much bumps and bruises,” Akramoff said. “I’m sure some will be sore today.”
Anderson said there was no obvious damage to the bus.
The bus is owned and operated by the Winlock School District, according to Anderson.
District Superintendent Shannon Criss issued a formal statement noting the district is fortunate to have competent, caring and professional staff who remained calm, and made sure the students remained safe.
The state patrol is investigating, inspecting the bus today.