KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Two female children and an adult bus aide were killed in a collision involving two school buses Tuesday afternoon on a highway in East Knoxville, WATE reports.
The accident was reported just after 3 p.m. on Asheville Highway at Gov. John Sevier Highway and involved two school buses, numbered 44 and 57, serving Chilhowee Intermediate School and Sunnyview Primary School, according to the news outlet. A preliminary investigation revealed the buses were traveling in opposite directions when bus 44 made a sharp left turn for some unknown reason and crossed over a concrete median. The bus struck the side of bus 57, causing that bus to flip onto its side.
Two children and the aide were pronounced dead at the scene, WATE reports. Three patients were hospitalized and are listed in stable condition, and around 20 students were taken to the hospital and treated for minor injuries. The driver of bus 44 is being treated for non-life threatening injuries, according to the news outlet.
Joy Reinmann, a fifth grade student aboard bus 44, who suffered a black eye, recounted her experience of the crash to WBIR after she was released from the hospital Tuesday evening. Reinmann said that the road was slippery, and, when the buses collided, "… everybody in all our bus almost blacked out and everyone was on the floor and screaming and crying... I thought I was going to die." She added that she saw that other students were injured and tried to comfort them, and that she was mostly concerned about her bus driver, who is in the hospital.
James McIntyre, superintendent for Knox County Schools, released the following statement on Tuesday regarding the accident:
“Our families and community suffered an unspeakable tragedy today, and our thoughts and prayers are with all of the families and staff members at Chilhowee Intermediate School and Sunnyview Primary School. We have decided that these two schools will not be in session on Wednesday, Dec. 3. We will, however, open the schools between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., so counselors can be available for students and families who need this support. Additionally, counselors will be available at other schools as needed.
"I want to thank all of our first responders and Knox County Schools staff who are working to help our community during this difficult time. We will make every effort to support the needs of all students and staff in the coming weeks.”
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.