Two buses carrying high school band
students to an amusement park Thursday slammed into a freeway wreck that
happened right in front of them, crushing a pickup truck and killing its driver
and one of the students. Dozens of other students were treated for injuries.
The wreck near Gray Summit, about
40 miles west of St. Louis, happened when the pickup truck rear-ended a semi
cab that had slowed down because it was nearing a construction zone, state
police said. The first bus, which was carrying female band members from John F.
Hodge High in St. James, slammed into the back of the pickup, then was launched
on top of it after it was rear-ended by the second bus, State Highway Patrol
Cpl. Jeff Wilson said.
At least 42 students were taken to
hospitals, most with injuries not considered life-threatening.
The students were on their way to a
Six Flags amusement park some 10 miles from the crash site.
“My goodness. You send your
children off to Six Flags, you don’t expect this to happen,” Missouri
State Highway Patrol Sgt. Dan Crain said. “Being parents, we cannot
imagine how difficult this is.”
Joy Tucker, the superintendent of
the St. James school system, said the town was devastated.
“It’s been a horrible,
horrible day in our community, and we’ll never get over this.”
Highway Patrol Cpl. Jeff Wilson
said the driver of the first bus moved into the passing lane to give a distressed
vehicle in the shoulder more room. She was checking her rear-view mirror while
returning to the right-hand lane when she noticed the first impact but could
not stop in time, hitting the pickup. The second bus then rear-ended the first,
vaulting the first bus onto the top of the pickup, which was crushed.
The buses were segregated by
gender, with girls in the first and boys on the other, Wilson said.
The pickup was barely recognizable
in the tangled wreckage. Hours later, crews using a crane gently lifted the
buses off of the crushed wreckage to try to clear the freeway, which was closed
going eastbound. Traffic backed up in that direction for as much as 10 miles.
Wilson said it was too soon to say
if any of the drivers would face charges.