The Missouri Department of Transportation has confirmed two deaths and reports say as many 50 people could have been injured in a four-vehicle accident in Gray Summit, two of which were school buses full of students. The buses are from the St. James School District, and the high school band was making a trip to Six Flags in Eureka.
MODOT spent most of the day sorting out the details, but images on television showed one of the buses ramped up on top of the back of the tractor trailer, with a pick-up truck trapped in between, beneath the wheels of the first bus. The second bus rear ended the first bus. Highway Patrol has confirmed that one of the fatalaties was a female student who was in the first bus, and the other was the driver of the pickup truck.
Witnesses tell the Missourinet that the tractor trailer’s tire blew, causing the semi to swerve, at which point it was hit by a truck. Police say the interview with the driver of the first bus gave some insight into what happened.
“What we understand is there was a vehicle… that was on the right shoulder, now we don’t know how far back, and that she moved partially into the left lane. As she was looking into her mirrors either to the left or the right, she took her eyes off the road and when she looked up she failed to notice the first impact, the GMC with the Volvo tractor. She then rear-ended the GMC pickup that was involved with that first accident with the Volvo. At this time, the second bus that was traveling with the boys, rear-ended the first bus,” said Highway Patrol Corporal Jeff Wilson.
The first bus was carrying all girls, the second bus all boys.
Officials says the collision happened between 10:15 and 10:30am Thursday morning on I-44 Eastbound at mile marker 250.
Family members tell the Missourinet that 36 students were taken to Cardinal Glennon Hopsital in St. Louis with minor injuries like scrapes, bruises, broken bones, and bloody noses. The students were trasported via a tour bus that was brought to the scene. Another 11 victims were taken to various other hospitals in the region.
AUDIO: Raw interview with MODOT spokesman Jorma Duran [2 min MP3]