MEIGS COUNTY, Tenn. — UPDATE (Tuesday evening, 11 p.m.)
Newschannel9's shared the latest from the tragic bus crash.
THP later tweet that Highway 58 is back open more than 7 hours after the crash.
UPDATE (Tuesday evening, 8:30 p.m.):
The Tennessee Highway Patrol shared the tragic news that a Meigs County school bus driver and a young student were killed in Tuesday afternoon's crash.
Seven other children were taken to Erlanger in Chattanooga, THP Lieutenant Bill Miller said during a news conference Tuesday night. Of those, five were airlifted by LifeForce helicopter, with at least one of them in critical condition. (Editor's note: A previous version of this story stated that a total of five children were sent to the hospital. This has since been corrected.)
The student killed was a 7-year-old girl, but officials have not yet released her name or that of the woman driving the bus.
According to Lt. Miller, a service electric truck was heading north on Highway 58 when the driver lost control and overcorrected, reentering the highway and skidding into the oncoming bus lane.
A total of 22 students were on Bus #12-1 when the crash happened. Lt. Miller said the driver of the utility vehicle received minor injuries.
Meigs County Sheriff Jackie Melton said during the conference that in his time in law enforcement, this was an incident that "really touched home."
"Never in your wildest dreams do you think when you go out the door that you'll deal with something like this," said Meigs County School Superintendent Clint Baker, "It's a tragedy - no other way to describe it."
Superintendent Baker says the state's Department of Mental Health and Meigs County crisis team will be available to help the district's hurting students, teachers, and school bus drivers on Wednesday.
Lt. Miller says traffic fatalities are on the rise in a year where they shouldn't be.
"It's ripped scars off of memories of what families have gone through in the past," said Miller.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee offered his condolences Tuesday night, and promised support for the Meigs County community in the coming days.
"We are praying for all those involved and their families. May God watch over these innocent children," said U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn.
The THP says a preliminary report of the crash will be released later Tuesday night.
This is a developing story and will be updated as we learn more.
UPDATE (Tuesday evening, 8 p.m.):
The Tennessee Highway Patrol says they will hold a news conference at 8:30 p.m. ET to provide information on the deadly crash involving a utility vehicle and a Meigs County school bus with children on board.
The conference is set to take place at Meigs South Elementary School. The area has limited cell reception. We are working with our crew in the field to get the latest information to you as we are able.
This is a developing story and will be updated as we learn more.
Tennessee Highway Patrol says two people were killed in a crash involving a utility service vehicle and a Meigs County School bus with children on board.
Lieutenant Bill Miller confirmed the news to us late Tuesday afternoon during our evening newscast. Officials have not yet released the ages or names of those involved.
Meigs County Sheriff Jackie Melton told us around 4 p.m. that he was rushing to the scene. It happened at 7751 State Highway 58, north of the intersection with Lamontville Road.
A person who was on the scene but asked not to be identified tells us the crash involved a utility truck and the school bus. It’s not clear how many injuries there are at this time, but our source confirms there are multiple injuries.
According to a 5:44pm statement from the Meigs County Board of Education, Meigs County Bus #12-1 was on its afternoon route with children on board when the crash happened.
"At present all families have been notified and children have returned home with a family member or were taken to area hospitals for treatment" the statement reads.
The school system said students on the bus were sent to Meigs South Elementary School, and parents could go there to pick them up.
It is not clear how many people were on the bus, or how many were taken to the hospital.
NewsChannel 9's crews reported from Meigs County as well as outside Erlanger in Chattanooga as the news developed.PM TEAM COVERAGE pt1: Sydney Edwards and Sabrina Maggiore reported from Meigs County, and Isaiah Kim-Martinez reported from outside Erlanger in downtown Chattanooga.
Blood Assurance says its area locations will be staying open until 10 p.m. tonight to get blood donations for those injured in the bus accident. Appointments are required - you can make one by calling 800-962-0628, text BAGIVE to 999777, or by visiting their website here.
The locations include Hixson, downtown Chattanooga, Gunbarrel Road, and Cleveland.
Many people have rushed to donate blood in the wake of the deadly crash.
In downtown Chattanooga, Isaiah Kim-Martinez saw dozens in the waiting room.
And at the Cleveland location, a viewer sent us pictures of lines of community members wrapping around the building.
Local and state officials are responding to the news of the serious crash.
Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn offered her condolences in a statement, and said that they are working to support the Meigs County School District and community.
“I and the entire staff at the Tennessee Department of Education are deeply saddened to hear about the fatal bus crash in Meigs County earlier this afternoon. No words can express our sympathies for those lives that were lost," said Schwinn, "We send our deepest condolences to the students, families, school staff and leaders, district staff and the entire Meigs County community affected by this tragic accident and wish healing for all those injured. The department has communicated with district leaders and staff in Meigs County and surrounding areas and is mobilizing to support this community in safety response and services.”
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke released a statement on Twitter, saying, "I'm deeply saddened to hear the news coming out of Meigs County this evening about a serious school bus crash. My thoughts are with these children and their families. Until we have more information, we will hope for the best and keep them in our prayers."
The Bradley County Sheriff's Office asked the community to join them in "prayerfully supporting those affected by this accident."
This is a developing story and will be updated.
A North Carolina couple is upset a bus driver forced their child to get off at the wrong stop, because she was the last one on the bus.
Brittany Copeland and Arnold Johnson are thankful their 6-year-old daughter Laylah is okay. They know things could've taken a turn for the worst.
"This could be a totally different interview right now," Copeland said tearfully.
Copeland says her first grader was told to get off the bus, since she was the last one on. Even though little Laylah told the driver she didn't see her home, or parents.
"How she explained it, how he said it, he said just 'go!' So she's six years old, she's going to get off the bus," Copeland said.
Laylah was about three blocks from her house, and she didn't know where she was. "She said she was nervous and crying," Johnson said.
Then, an act of kindness. A stranger, who happened to be a security guard just getting off work, spotted lost Laylah. "She ran up to her said 'hey are you the police I’m lost I don’t know where I am, the bus driver just told me to get off the bus he said 'go go,"' Johnson reenacted.
Johnson said she was smart enough to only go up to someone in uniform. But still, anything could've happened. "Anybody could have picked her up, there are so many cases where kids come up missing for little mistakes like this," Copeland said with tears in her eyes.
The parents hail the security guard, who wants to remain anonymous, as a hero. The security guard drover Laylah back to Joyner Elementary. It's something the parents said the bus driver should have done.
"With a 6-year-old telling you 'I don't see my parents, this is not where I stay,' why not take her back to the school why leave her somewhere she's unfamiliar?"
Copeland and Johnson said they wanted to share their story so this doesn't happen to another family. "We just want parents to be on more of an alert when it comes to their children, school buses, and these bus drivers."
Guilford County Schools responded with a statement that reads:
“Guilford County Schools would like to apologize for any concern this situation caused our student and the family. Appropriate district protocols were not followed, and the driver has been removed from the bus pending further investigation.” – Nora Carr, Chief of Staff
Fines already highest in Canada, and will be higher with more demerit points
P.E.I. drivers will now lose their licence for a time if they illegally pass a school bus, Transportation Minister Paula Biggar said in the legislature Thursday.
Drivers who ignore this law are not allowed on Island roads.
— Paula Biggar
School bus drivers, parents and others have been calling for more action on illegal passing for years, ramping up efforts after some vehicles nearly hit children getting on and off buses this fall.
Failing to stop for a school bus will also result in 12 demerit points and driver's licence suspension for three months, plus a $5,000 fine.
The new measures will take effect Dec. 8, Biggar said.
Will need to take a course
"This means drivers who ignore this law are not allowed on Island roads," said Biggar.
Previously, the punishment was typically a fine of $1,000 and eight demerit points, with maximum fine of $5,000.
Those fines were already the highest in the country, according to a document tabled in the legislature by Biggar last November. The next highest were in Nova Scotia, ranging from $697.50 to $2,422.50. Second offences in Ontario could lead to a $4,000 fine and possible jail time.
For a suspended licence on P.E.I. to be reinstated, drivers will need to meet with highway safety officials, pay a $100 reinstatement fee and take a defensive driving course within six months of getting their licence back.
Drivers will then be on probation, Biggar said, and if they receive any demerit points within a year of reinstatement, their licence will be suspended.
Biggar said the new measures are one of the recommendations of the standing committee on Infrastructure and Energy.
"We are taking all these recommendations seriously. We will be continuing to work with our police and education partners to implement strong solutions."
Island entrepreneurs pitch product to stop drivers passing stopped school buses
She added that government is looking at additional prevention and enforcement measures, including raising the demerit points for using a hand-held device while driving.
"We all have a role in ensuring our Island roads are safe and keeping children safe on their way to school and we will continue to work diligently to prevent the dangerous passing of school buses on P.E.I."