A tragic crash between two school buses, a semi cab and a pickup truck took place on I-44 right outside Gray Summit, Missouri, not far from my home in St. Louis, killing two and injuring dozens.
Two buses filled with up to 50 students each from John F. Hodge High School (St. James, MO) crashed into an accident that had just occurred in front of them at 10:15 a.m. Thursday. Each bus carried band members headed to Six Flags, an amusement park outside St. Louis.
According to Fox News, police say the pickup rear-ended the semi cab as the semi slowed down while going into a construction zone. Moments later, the first bus crashed into the pickup but was then immediately launched into the air and landed on top of the pickup after the second bus crashed into it.
The pickup truck was crushed completely and the driver, 19-year-old Daniel Schatz, was killed. Jessica Brinker, a student sitting in the back of the first bus, also died in the crash.
Erin Hall, one of the first witnesses on the scene, saw some of the kids lying on the grass near the highway and others walking around in shock. She told STL Today, “They all looked stunned or shocked. I heard a lot of crying and a lot of yelling.”
Approximately 36 students were sent to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center in St. Louis, says Ashley Wiehle, a spokeswoman for the hospital. The remaining children with injuries were sent to other hospitals, including St. John’s and St. Clare.
While a few students were treated for fractures, the majority of the others suffered only minor injuries, such as scrapes and cuts. The more seriously injured were transported by ambulance, while all the remaining kids were taken by charter bus to be evaluated by doctors. Later that day, the students were gathered together and told about their classmate who had died in the accident.
According to STL Today, “The driver of the first bus told investigators that she had changed lanes to avoid a car stalled on the side of the road and was unable to stop in time after realizing the pickup had struck the tractor trailer ahead of her.”
After that, there was no way for the second bus to stop in time. Due to the various vehicles involved in the crash and the magnitude of it, investigators say it may take up to two weeks to put together exact chronological details of the accident to learn precisely what happened.
News helicopters provided chilling photos of the wreckage, some of which can be found on USA Today and Fox News. Photos of Daniel Schatz and Jessica Brinker can be found on STL Today. Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Dan Crain said, “My goodness. You send your children off to Six Flags, you don’t expect this to happen. Being parents, we cannot imagine how difficult this is.”