The Mobile County Public School System has confirmed one of its bus drivers was killed in an accident in Prichard Thursday morning that left a 22-year-old Florida man facing criminal charges.
First responders were dispatched to the intersection of Interstate 65 and U.S. Highway 45 in Prichard around 7:30 a.m. Thursday in response to an overturned MCPSS school bus that still had the driver trapped inside. She was taken to a hospital in Mobile, but succumbed to her injuries and died.
No children were on the bus at the time of the accident.
This afternoon, MCPSS released a statement identifying the driver as Kimberleigh Faith Welch, 32, who was returning from dropping off children at Pathway Alternative School when her bus was hit by a car.
The exact nature of the collision is unclear, but the driver of the second vehicle — 22-year-old Brando Barner of Panama City, Florida — has since been arrested and charged with homicide by vehicle.
Barner was booked into Mobile County Metro Jail shortly after noon.
Some MCPSS employees have been showing their respect to Welch by placing a black bow and flower arrangements on a school bus at the system administrative campus.
Administrators said counselors are available to meet with any student or MCPSS employee who needs to talk about the incident.
You can read the MCPSS’ full statement on Welch’s death below:
Mobile County Public Schools is mourning the loss of a beloved bus driver. Mrs. Kimberleigh Welch died as the result of a bus accident Thursday morning after dropping her students off at Pathway Alternative School.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our Mobile County Public Schools’ family members, Mrs. Kimberleigh Welch. Mrs. Welch was a very well-liked, caring and dedicated bus driver and volunteer for our district,” said MCPSS Superintendent Chresal Threadgill.
“We extend our sincere sympathy to the Welch family. During times such as this, it is difficult to find comfort. However, we hope that each individual life that Mrs. Welch has touched will always remember the fond memories and times shared with her,” Threadgill said. “We extend our thoughts and prayers to everyone affected by our loss.”
Mrs. Welch worked as a bus driver for Mobile County Public Schools since February 2018. She was a hard-working employee who was admired by her coworkers. “The kids and the staff at her school loved her and thought the world of her,” Director of Transportation Pat Mitchell said. “This is a very somber day for us as one of our heroes is gone. We will forever remember her.”
Mobile County Board of School Commissioners President Doug Harwell said he and the rest of the board are thinking about Mrs. Welch’s family and all of the MCPSS employees and students who knew her during this difficult time.
“Our board does pray for the safety of all of our bus drivers and all of our employees and all of our students,” Harwell said. “Our bus drivers do a great job. They work hard to get our children safely to school and back home every day.”
Pathway Principal Patricia Westbrook said Welch was “the most giving, caring bus driver I have ever met. She treated every child special. We are going to miss her.”
Welch met every student with a smile and always talked about how much she loved her family, Westbrook said. “She was an all-around good person who never complained.”
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