ATHENS, TX (KLTV) - Nine children were transported to East Texas Medical Center in Athens after two Athens Independent School District buses were involved in an accident on Wednesday afternoon.
Witnesses say one bus rear-ended the other on Palestine Street near the bus barn in Athens. Bus 14 hit bus 13 before going off the road and hitting three empty cars sitting in the parking lot of Eastern Texas Pathology Labs. Bus 14 then traveled out of that parking area and down the road roughly 500 more feet before coming to a rest.
"I was playing with my friend on the bus when I felt the bus crash, that's when I fell to the ground and hit my knee and hurt my head on the bus seat," says 5th grader Alex Rodriguez.
East Texas Medical Center officials say the nine children transported are being treated for fractures, bumps and bruises. ETMC officials originally said one of the children was in critical condition, but that student's condition is no longer life-threatening, according Rebecca Berkley at ETMC. Berkley added that none of the children are expected to be admitted into the hospital.
An additional 60 students were transported to the hospital via school bus to be checked out by medical staff. Parents of those students were asked to pick their children up from the hospital. Many could not believe the scene when they arrived.
"I didn't think there were going to be that many kids. I thought just a few kids until I walked in there and there were kids everywhere," says Patrena Paul, a grandmother to two of the children involved in the crash.
Paul says seeing the children inside the hospital was scary, but the hospital staff kept everything under control, "Nobody was freaking out or anything and they did a good job keeping everyone calm."
Her granddaughter, 5th grader Kashari Friendly, says at first she was scared, "What is going to happen? Am I going to die? Am I going to be ok? And am I going to the hospital?"
Athens ISD Superintendent Blake Stiles was at the hospital making sure every student had a parent or family member with them and was going to be ok.
Stiles says the last student was released from the hospital just before 10 o'clock Wednesday night.
The children involved are between ages 5 and 10 years old.
Stiles says the Athens ISD school buses will run their regular routes tomorrow. He says one of the bus drivers has a broken wrist and will not be able to drive. Stiles released a statement Thursday morning, thanking first responders and Athens ISD faculty:
"I would like to thank everyone who helped with yesterday's bus accident. The parents, first responders, ETMC staff, and the AISD faculty members who showed up at the scene and the hospital were all extraordinary. Their efforts made an unfortunate situation much easier to deal with."
Athens ISD is still working with the Athens Police Department to determine what caused the crash.
Stiles says the district is relieved no one was seriously hurt.