JACKSON, MS (AP/WMC-TV) - At least 10 high school students were taken to hospitals and three adults were killed when a tractor-trailer sideswiped a school bus and collided head-on with another school bus Tuesday on a highway bridge in north Mississippi, authorities said.
Mississippi Department of Public Safety spokesman Jon Kalahar said one of those killed was the driver of the 18-wheeler and the other two adults killed were school employees. About 60 students were aboard the buses traveling on Mississippi highway 8, about 40 miles south of the University of Mississippi at Oxford.
Ten students were transported to area hospitals, authorities said. One was taken by helicopter to North Mississippi Medical Center. School officials had said seven students were taken to hospitals but the reason for the discrepancy was unclear.
Video from Chopper 5 showed one of the buses smashed up against the guard rail of a highway overpass bridge. Video showed the bus with its rear area dangling over the guard rail, its hood crumpled and sheered away on the driver's side.
"We're very fortunate the bus didn't go off the bridge," Mike Dunagin, the fire chief of Calhoun City, told the Associated Press.
He said the students from Ackerman High School in Choctaw County had been visiting the university at Oxford and were returning home.
Kalahar said the 18-wheeler sideswiped the first bus before hitting the second. "The 18-wheeler somehow got over in the other lane and scraped the side of the first bus and then hit the second one head on," Kalahar added.
Mike Thomas, a school board member in Mississippi's Choctaw County, described the students' injuries as non-life threatening.
Charlie Brown, a spokesman for the Calhoun City Fire Department, said authorities were arranging transport home for those who were shaken up but not injured. "Most of them were in total shock. We had numerous (emergency medical) officials here. We had some pastors here that could help with counseling," Brown added.
The students were about 40 miles from home at the time.
Tom Burnham, Mississippi's superintendent of education, said in a statement that the department was working with school districts and the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University to provide counselors for students and teachers.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of the three individuals," he said.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
PRESS RELEASE: School Bus-Semi Tractor/Trailer Crash on MS 8
At approximately 2pm, the Mississippi Highway Patrol was dispatched to a three-vehicle crash involving two Choctaw County School Buses and a Semi-Tractor/Trailer. The early afternoon crash occurred on MS 8 (a rural, two-lane highway) approximately 1 mile West of Calhoun City in Calhoun County, MS.
Upon arriving it appeared Gary T Bailey, 54, of Mantachie, MS, was traveling East on MS 8, operating a 2010 International, Semi-Tractor/Trailer, when apparently his vehicle and a 2000 International School Bus, operated by Shane Burton,40, of Ackerman, MS, side- swiped each other. The semi-tractor/trailer and a second school bus, operated by Steven B Moss, 37, of Ackerman, MS, then collided head-on.
Both school buses were traveling west on MS 8 when the collision occurred. The buses were carrying seniors from Ackerman High School and were returning from a campus visit at the University of Mississippi.
Bailey, the driver of the semi-tractor/trailer, and Moss, driver of the second school bus, were fatally injured in the accident. Moss was a teacher and coach at Ackerman High School.
Phyllis Graham, 53, of Eupora, MS, also a teacher from Ackerman High School, received fatal injuries in the wreck. She was a passenger in the bus operated by Moss .
Burton, driver of the first school bus, received minor injuries in the accident.
There were approximately 57 students traveling between the two buses. Approximately 17 of the students were carried to local hospitals by ambulance, private vehicles and one student was air-lifted to North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, MS. None of the students appear to have received life-threaten injuries in the crash. Students were carried to hospitals in Eupora, MS, Houston, MS, Oxford, MS, Calhoun City, MS, and Tupelo, MS.
Traffic came to a halt on MS 8 as crews worked for approximately 6 hours until the crash scene could be cleared.
The accident remains under investigation by the Mississippi Highway Patrol.
Point of Contact for this statement is Trooper Ray Hall, Public Affairs Officer, Troop F, (662) 266-1130, or Trooper Brian Mobley, Public Affairs Officer, Troop G, (662) 418-4077.
Point of Contact for the Choctaw County School District is the Choctaw County Superintendent of Education Donna Shea. (662) 285-7318.
The Choctaw County School District will conduct a press conference at the Central Office in Ackerman, MS, at 10:00am, on February 9, 2011.