10:06am: Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval

Officials thankful for statewide support following Martinsburg Lady Bulldogs bus crash

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Given the circumstances, you could call it the “Miracle on I-64”.

“The call that I received Saturday is the one that parents fear the most when you have teenage drivers, said Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon on MetroNews ‘Talkline’ Monday. “This was much different.”

A charter van carrying the Martinsburg High School Lady Bulldogs Basketball team home from the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center only went about two miles into its 265 mile journey. On a sharp curve entering I-64, the driver lost control of the vehicle causing it to roll three times and land on its side. It was carrying 12 players and several adults. There were initial reports of multiple injuries of various degrees, but none were life-threatening.

All of the injured were medically cleared by 1 a.m. Sunday, including a student who had been flown to Charleston Area Medical Center. According to Arvon, that player was trapped in the vehicle for almost 50 minutes as crews worked to free her. Arvon also confirmed that the vehicle was a Mercedes-Benz “sprinter” van. It was initially reported as a charter bus.

As reports came out that all who were injured had been medically cleared, other good news began to cycle. Gov. Jim Justice provided lodging for the players, staff and parents impacted by the accident. At 4 am, they arrived to The Resort at Glade Springs in nearby Daniels.

“A lot of folks really stepped in and helped us out,” said Martinsburg High School Principal Trent Sherman on WEPM’s ‘Panhandle Live’. “From some guys that were there on the scene, we had some managers that were following behind the bus and really did some great things as far as getting girls out. Then Governor Jim Justice taking care of our coaches, players and our parents there that night. It was a great effort by everybody involved.”


The Lady Bulldogs had played the Greenbrier East High School girls team, coached by Justice, earlier in the evening for the Big Atlantic Classic championship. Martinsburg lost 60-55. Initial social media traffic and reports led some to to believe that Greenbrier East was in the crash, since they would take the same route home. This was later refuted when Justice confirmed on Twitter that the van belonged to Martinsburg.

On Sunday afternoon, the team finally returned home to Martinsburg High School after a long weekend. While Martinsburg is used to welcoming home state champions almost every year, Sherman said Sunday’s homecoming meant far more.

“A group of us came over here and met them when they came home yesterday (Sunday),” said Sherman. “So we got to just hug them and say thank goodness that we’re getting to see you. We’ve done a lot of state championship receptions and things of that nature. I felt like this one maybe was the most important one of all because it was representative of kids coming back who potentially could not have been coming back.”

From the moment news began circulating of the crash, community members began contacting Sherman, the team and Martinsburg High School to show support.

“I just want to say thank you for the well wishes and the prayers,” added Sherman. “I’m just so thankful that there weren’t any more serious injuries. Each of these young people is a very important part of our school community. We love them, and we’re just thankful that they got home safe on Sunday.”

Players also received an outpouring of support on their social media. Some used Twitter as a platform to provide updates until the team returned home safely.

“At the end of the day we’re in some political issues in West Virginia dealing with education reform and all that,” said Arvon. “But you put that aside and when you start looking at people and judging them on how they treat children, I walked away with great respect and admiration for the governor and his staff. It couldn’t have been any better.”

Both Arvon and Sherman indicated that almost all of the players were back in the classroom Monday. Injuries range from bumps and bruises to a sprained elbow.

“We’re in the eastern panhandle and that’s southern West Virginia (but) we are all West Virginians,” added Arvon. “Everyone came together and it was fantastic (with) the support and the action taken by the local people in Beckley in helping the Martinsburg High School girls basketball team.”

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