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School bus driver, 7-year-old girl killed in Tennessee crash

UPDATED: Wed., Oct. 28, 2020

Associated Press

DECATUR, Tenn. — A school bus driver was killed along with a 7-year-old girl after a utility vehicle swerved into their lane. The bus, carrying 22 children, slammed head-on into the vehicle’s side, the Tennessee Highway Patrol said.

Five children were airlifted to a regional hospital and two were taken by ambulance after Tuesday’s crash on state Highway 58 in Meigs County in eastern Tennessee, Lt. Bill Miller said.

Authorities said the oncoming utility vehicle veered off the road and then over-corrected, swerving and skidding sideways just in front of the oncoming bus. The bus driver, a woman, had no opportunity to stop, the highway patrol said.

One student, a boy, was in critical condition and undergoing surgery as of late Tuesday night. No names were released pending notification of family.

In a statement Wednesday, Meigs County Schools said several students were treated and released at hospitals. The school district said it’s their understanding that students who were treated at the Erlanger hospital in Chattanooga are in stable condition. More information will be provided as soon as possible, the district said.

“We sincerely appreciate all of your thoughts, prayers and the outpouring of support that has been shown to Meigs County Schools and our community,” Meigs County Director of Schools Clint Baker and the school board said in the statement. “Meigs County is a tight knit community and we know the bond will be important as we navigate the days ahead.”

M.J. Vaughn, 13, told WSMV-TV that he was on the bus and heard the vehicle’s brakes screech before the crash.

“All it was was just a big bang. Everybody was just screaming. There was people laying on the floor, glass everywhere,” he said.

Lt. Miller shared his condolences to “this community and to the family of the school bus driver and the family of the 7-year-old.” He spoke to a Tuesday evening news conference at Meigs South Elementary School in Decatur, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said in a statement that she and the entire staff at the Tennessee Department of Education are “deeply saddened.”

The driver of the utility vehicle, from Service Electric, was being treated for minor injuries.

Authorities are investigating. No charges have been filed in the crash.

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