KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — When Trish Ward heard that officers were being dispatched to a fatal school bus crash in December, she quickly responded to assist at the scene.
Two students and a bus aide were killed in the Dec. 2 collision between two school buses on a highway in East Knoxville. One bus reportedly crossed over a concrete median and struck the other bus, which fell onto its side.
Ward, a school resource officer at Holston Middle School, alerted Holston Principal Ashley Jessie and went to the crash scene. Meanwhile, Jessie went to Chilhowee Intermediate School to manage it while Chilhowee's staff responded to the crash.
At the scene, Ward began helping students evacuate the buses. She also relayed student names to Jessie, who looked up parent contact information.
“Due to Officer Ward's help and assistance, questions from concerned parents were being answered," Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch said.
Officials credited Ward with helping to reunite parents with their children, as well as providing organization and a sense of calm, during a chaotic and emotional time. In addition to the three fatalities, more than 20 students and at least one of the bus drivers were injured in the crash.
On Monday, Rausch and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero named Ward the December Officer of the Month for the Knoxville Police Department. Ward has been with the department since 1998.
"In a thank-you letter for Officer Ward, Principal Jessie said she could never understand how law enforcement officers deal with tragedy on a daily basis," Rausch said, adding that the principal noted that "Holston Middle was thankful and feels blessed to have one of the most caring officers in their building every day."