GRAY SUMMIT, Mo. — State troopers have reported that a student and the driver of a pickup truck were fatally injured in a chain-reaction highway accident today involving a tractor trailer cab, two school buses and the truck.
The buses were taking high school band members to a Six Flags amusement park when the collision occurred, The Associated Press (AP) reports.
The pickup truck slammed into the back of the tractor, which had slowed for traffic near a construction zone. The bus that was carrying the girl who was killed then struck the pickup from behind and was rear-ended by the other school bus.
Highway Patrol Cpl. Jeff Wilson told the AP that the driver of the first bus had moved into the passing lane to give a distressed vehicle in the shoulder more room. She was checking her rearview 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.
Joy Tucker, superintendent of the St. James School District, said the town was devastated.
"It's been a horrible, horrible day in our community, and we'll never get over this," Tucker told the AP.
Dozens of other children were injured during the accident and were taken to area hospitals, but their injuries are not considered to be life-threatening.
A statement on the district's Website asks people to keep the children and their families in their thoughts and prayers.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has launched a go-team to investigate the accident. NTSB board member Christopher Hart is accompanying the team and will serve as the on-scene spokesman. Senior Highway Investigator Peter Kotowski has been designated as the investigator-in-charge. Public Affairs Officer Terry Williams is accompanying the team, which is expected to arrive on scene this evening.