One student has died and another was seriously injured after being hit by an 18-wheeler while getting off a Mississippi school bus on Wednesday, officials said.
The incident, involving two students from Vardaman Elementary School, took place as the bus was stopped and the students were crossing a highway, according to a statement released on Wednesday from Calhoun County Public Schools Superintendent of Education Lisa Langford. No other students or personnel were injured, according to Langford.
The Calhoun County Coroner later identified the two students who were hit as Valeria Montero, who was pronounced dead at the scene, and her 5-year-old brother, who suffered a broken hip and femur and was airlifted to a hospital in Memphis, Tenn., according to WVLT. On Friday, Vardamon Police Department provided an update on Montero's brother, Luis, in a Facebook post announcing that he would be discharged from the hospital.
The accident reportedly occurred on a two-lane state highway, and that particular section of the road curves to the right as it goes uphill, creating some visibility issues, according to the news source. An eastbound gravel truck was stopped in front of the stopped school bus, and a second eastbound truck, the 18-wheeler hauling lumber, didn’t stop in time, WVLT reports. Vardaman Police Chief Kenneth Scott told the news source that the driver of the 18-wheeler, 70-year-old James Thomas Murphy, swerved to the left to avoid the gravel truck and then swerved back to the right and went between the gravel truck and the school bus, which was full of students.
Murphy was taken into custody at the scene, and is currently being held on $50,000 bond, according to WVLT.
Langford added in her statement that Calhoun County Public Schools is working with local law enforcement, the Mississippi Highway Patrol, and other agencies to assess the incident and determine the appropriate next steps. She also said that the district extends its “deepest sympathy to the family, community, students, and staff of the Vardamon Schools,” and that counseling would be available following the incident to address any needs.