Thursday afternoon started like the end of any school day, with kids piling onto school buses for the ride home.
But within a few miles from David Crockett High School, the afternoon for one bus load of students turned upside down — literally, and several times.
“We went down the dip and around the turn ... the bus started swaying. She tried to correct it. All I could see was the back of the seat” as the bus began to flip, said sophomore David Story.
He gave his account of the wreck after he and 12 other students were transported on another bus from the scene to Mt. Wesley United Methodist Church.
“I’m a little sore. I don’t think I’ll be going to school tomorrow,” he said.
Bus 88, a substitute bus, but driven by the regular driver, went off the left side of the road, back onto the road and off the right side and then rolled over at least three times before coming to a rest on its right side, according to information from Director of Schools Ron Dykes.
The 63 kids onboard were tossed around and landed on top of each other as the bus rolled.
In the process, 27 received serious enough injuries to require treatment at one of three area hospitals, according to officials.
At least one student was critical, Dykes said. Uninjured students were either released to their parents who walked to the scene or transported by bus to Mt. Wesley United Methodist Church where a crowd of anxious parents stood by.
Barbara Story could hardly stand the wait for David to get there so she could “put hands on him” to be sure he was OK. She found out about the wreck through a phone call.
“I was sitting at work when my husband called. The first thing he said was, ‘Don’t panic.’ so of course, I panicked,” she said.
“He told me (David) was okay but his side was hurting. It was a little scary.” One of her coworkers at Ramey Ford in Johnson City drove her to the scene.
“It seemed like it took forever” to be reunited, she said.
And while she’s happy her son is safe and unharmed, she is concerned about the students not so fortunate.
“My heart and my prayers go out to them. I heard one of them was hurt very seriously.”
Dakota Roush, a sophomore and friend of David’s, said he ended up in one corner of the bus covered by people.
“We were going down the road and the tires hit the ditch. The back of the bus started swaying ... people were screaming. I landed in the corner and everybody was on top of me,” he said.
Rouse, Story and another friend, Cody Silvers, helped each other get out of the bus.
Roush said he saw several students on stretchers being carried to ambulances.
“One girl, her head was bleeding pretty bad,” he said.
Dykes said grief counselors will be at David Crockett High School today to talk to students and help them process what happened.
As soon as Dykes got word of the crash, he went to the scene while Crockett Principal Andy Hare went to the medical center.
“The last number I received was 28” injured students, Dykes said, although a later update indicated there were 27 injured, including the driver.
Dykes said and other administrators will continue to monitor the medical conditions of all the injured as this investigation gets under way.
“Safety is our number one concern regarding children. This is a tragedy. Our prayers are with the families and students. We hope there’s a compete recovery for all of them,” he said.