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THP: Meigs Co. school bus driver, 7-year-old girl killed in crash, 7 others hospitalized

School bus crash in Meigs County 10.27.2020 - Tennessee Highway Patrol.jpg
(Image: Tennessee Highway Patrol)

UPDATE (Wednesday afternoon):

The Tennessee Highway Patrol released a preliminary report on the tragic crash, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) confirmed they have launched a safety investigation into the crash.

Meigs County Director of Schools Clint Baker shared more information during a Wednesday afternoon news conference. See the latest here.

UPDATE (Wednesday, noon):

The Town of Decatur Facebook page has announced there will be a candlelight vigil for the victims later on Wednesday night. You can watch the event live here.

The post says,

We have been asked to help publicize that there will be a Community Candlelight Vigil tonight at the Meigs County Fairgrounds Pavilion (at the park in Decatur near Meigs Middle School) at 7pm to show support for all impacted by the Meigs County school bus crash tragedy."

We have continuing team coverage with crews in Meigs County and near where families are with their hospitalized loved ones in Chattanooga.

Depend on us to keep you posted.

UPDATE (Wednesday morning):

Meigs County Schools released a statement Wednesday morning confirming what the THP reported.

It says the students who were treated at Erlanger are now in stable condition.

It also says several other students were treated at nearby hospitals, including those in Chattanooga, Cleveland, Athens and Rhea County.

Meigs County Schools plans to hold a news conference at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, where officials say they plan to share more details. We will stream that live on our websites and on our Facebook pages.

Read Meigs County Schools' full statement below:'

"The Meigs County School system wishes to thank the first responders and emergency personnel for their actions and support related to the bus crash on the evening of October 27th. We also thank all for well wishes, thoughts and prayers. To confirm reports as stated during the THP press conference, the bus driver and a 7-year-old female student lost their life. It is our understanding that students who were treated at Erlanger are in stable condition. We had several students treated and released at hospitals in Chattanooga, Cleveland, Athens and Rhea County. We will have specific information and more data available as soon as possible. We are planning to make a statement to the press at 3pm today from the library at Meigs County High."

Depend on us to keep you posted as we learn more.

UPDATE (Tuesday evening, 11 p.m.)

NewsChannel 9's crew shared the latest from the tragic bus crash.

THP later tweeted that Highway 58 reopened, more than seven hours after the crash.

UPDATE (Tuesday evening, 8:30 p.m.):

The Tennessee Highway Patrol shared the tragic news that a Meigs County school bus driver and a young student were killed in Tuesday afternoon's crash.

Seven other children were taken to Erlanger in Chattanooga, THP Lieutenant Bill Miller said during a news conference Tuesday night. Of those, five were airlifted by LifeForce helicopter, with at least one of them in critical condition. (Editor's note: A previous version of this story stated that a total of five children were sent to the hospital. This has since been corrected.)

The student killed was a 7-year-old girl, but officials have not yet released her name or that of the woman driving the bus.

According to Lt. Miller, a service electric truck was heading north on Highway 58 when the driver lost control and overcorrected, reentering the highway and skidding into the oncoming bus lane.

A total of 22 students were on Bus #12-1 when the crash happened. Lt. Miller said the driver of the utility vehicle received minor injuries.

Meigs County Sheriff Jackie Melton said during the conference that in his time in law enforcement, this was an incident that "really touched home."

"Never in your wildest dreams do you think when you go out the door that you'll deal with something like this," said Meigs County School Superintendent Clint Baker, "It's a tragedy - no other way to describe it."

Superintendent Baker says the state's Department of Mental Health and Meigs County crisis team will be available to help the district's hurting students, teachers, and school bus drivers on Wednesday.

Lt. Miller says traffic fatalities are on the rise in a year where they shouldn't be.

"It's ripped scars off of memories of what families have gone through in the past," said Miller.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee offered his condolences Tuesday night, and promised support for the Meigs County community in the coming days.

"We are praying for all those involved and their families. May God watch over these innocent children," said U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn.

The THP says a preliminary report of the crash will be released later Tuesday night.

This is a developing story and will be updated as we learn more.

UPDATE (Tuesday evening, 8 p.m.):

The Tennessee Highway Patrol says they will hold a news conference at 8:30 p.m. ET to provide information on the deadly crash involving a utility vehicle and a Meigs County school bus with children on board.

The conference is set to take place at Meigs South Elementary School. The area has limited cell reception. We are working with our crew in the field to get the latest information to you as we are able.

THP says they will attempt to livestream the news conference on their Facebook and Twitter pages if signal permits.

This is a developing story and will be updated as we learn more.

PREVIOUSLY:

Tennessee Highway Patrol says two people were killed in a crash involving a utility service vehicle and a Meigs County School bus with children on board.

Lieutenant Bill Miller confirmed the news to us late Tuesday afternoon during our evening newscast. Officials have not yet released the ages or names of those involved.

Meigs County Sheriff Jackie Melton told us around 4 p.m. that he was rushing to the scene. It happened at 7751 State Highway 58, north of the intersection with Lamontville Road.

A person who was on the scene but asked not to be identified tells us the crash involved a utility truck and the school bus. It’s not clear how many injuries there are at this time, but our source confirms there are multiple injuries.

According to a 5:44pm statement from the Meigs County Board of Education, Meigs County Bus #12-1 was on its afternoon route with children on board when the crash happened.

"At present all families have been notified and children have returned home with a family member or were taken to area hospitals for treatment" the statement reads.

The school system said students on the bus were sent to Meigs South Elementary School, and parents could go there to pick them up.

It is not clear how many people were on the bus, or how many were taken to the hospital.

NewsChannel 9's crews reported from Meigs County as well as outside Erlanger in Chattanooga as the news developed.

Blood Assurance says its area locations will be staying open until 10 p.m. tonight to get blood donations for those injured in the bus accident. Appointments are required - you can make one by calling 800-962-0628, text BAGIVE to 999777, or by visiting their website here.

The locations include Hixson, downtown Chattanooga, Gunbarrel Road, and Cleveland.

Many people have rushed to donate blood in the wake of the deadly crash.

In downtown Chattanooga, Isaiah Kim-Martinez saw dozens in the waiting room.

And at the Cleveland location, a viewer sent us pictures of lines of community members wrapping around the building.

Local and state officials are responding to the news of the serious crash.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn offered her condolences in a statement, and said that they are working to support the Meigs County School District and community.

“I and the entire staff at the Tennessee Department of Education are deeply saddened to hear about the fatal bus crash in Meigs County earlier this afternoon. No words can express our sympathies for those lives that were lost," said Schwinn, "We send our deepest condolences to the students, families, school staff and leaders, district staff and the entire Meigs County community affected by this tragic accident and wish healing for all those injured. The department has communicated with district leaders and staff in Meigs County and surrounding areas and is mobilizing to support this community in safety response and services.”

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke released a statement on Twitter, saying, "I'm deeply saddened to hear the news coming out of Meigs County this evening about a serious school bus crash. My thoughts are with these children and their families. Until we have more information, we will hope for the best and keep them in our prayers."

The Bradley County Sheriff's Office asked the community to join them in "prayerfully supporting those affected by this accident."

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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