By Rick Sallinger

WELD COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – The school bus involved in Thursday’s collision with a truck and subsequent rollover was equipped with seat belts, but no one had them on except the driver.

school bus crash Debate On School Bus Seat Belts Renewed After Bus Rollover

(credit: CBS)

That’s according to officials at the Greeley-Evans School District 6. There is no policy or law in Colorado that requires the belt’s presence or use in large school buses.

Seth Salcido was one of the students on board.

“My armpit is really bruised inside,” he said.

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Seth Salcido (credit: CBS)

He described what happened after the bus was struck by the oncoming truck near County Roads 22 and 49. Thirty-four people were on board, but no one was killed.

“All of a sudden I hear a big bang and all of a sudden the whole bus starts flipping,” Salcido said.

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(credit: CBS)

The bus was on its way back from Elitch Gardens. It was carrying teens with the Student Recovery Program.

While the students were not wearing their seat belts, Colorado does require a structural design that keeps it from collapsing in a rollover. It worked.

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This accident happened not long after the National Transportation Safety Board issued a new recommendation for shoulder and lap belts on school buses.

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Jennifer Okes (credit: CBS)

“Seat belts are not currently required for school buses in Colorado. That’s because of the compartmentalization,” said Jennifer Okes, the Chief Operating Officer for the Colorado Department of Education.

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The theory is the padding between the spaced seats is as safe or better than seat belts.

“Because of the compartmentalization afforded through the school buses, school buses are the safest mode of transportation for school children,” Okes said.

Now the rollover in Weld County once again heats up the seat belt debate.

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(credit: CBS)

“That day someone could have died, and I’m glad no one didn’t,” Salcido said.

A spokesperson for the school district told CBS4 they will now examine whether full, three-point seat belts, not just lap belts, should be required.

The truck driver, William Carroll of Littleton, has been charged with a careless driving resulting in injury.

CBS4’s Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

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