ATHENS, TX (KLTV) - The city of Athens is mourning the loss of one of their own after an Athens ISD school bus traveled into the path of a Union Pacific train, killing a 13-year-old boy and critically injuring another child on Friday afternoon.
The sound of a train moving through the community now serves as a reminder of the tragedy. One mother describes hearing the first train allowed to travel on the tracks once they were reopened.
“I just sat there and listened. I couldn’t hear any other sound. No cars or animals. All you could hear was that train,” said Mackey Maiberger. “I can’t imagine what that mom and dad must have been feeling just to hear that.”
Maiberger’s child went to school with 13-year-old Christopher Bonilla, who was killed in an accident that’s being felt throughout the community.
“I saw a teacher at the grocery store and I just hugged her neck and we cried, and she said we’ll get past this, we just have to come together,” said Maiberger.
Athens Police say the train and bus came to a stop about a quarter of a mile after the initial collision. Early Saturday morning, debris like school papers and seat cushions were covering the ground, evidence of what took place Friday afternoon.
Maiberger says the crash is a parent’s worst nightmare.
“As a parent, it could have been any of us it could have been anyone, you send your kids to school thinking they’ll be safe, and then this happens, and it’s just so sad,” said Maiberger.
The school district is asking for prayers for everyone involved, including a second child on the bus, 9-year-old Joselyne Torres. Torres is in Children’s Medical Center in Dallas.
The district says they’re doing what they can for the families. Maiberger says it’s been a moment of realization for many.
“It just reminds us how important it is to love your neighbor and realize how precious life is, and how quickly things can happen and be so devastating.”
As officials continue to investigate exactly what led up to those fatal moments, the community is standing behind those affected by the tragedy, wanting them to know they are never alone.
“I would want for the families to know that we are all here to support them through this. I can’t imagine at all what they must be feeling and what they will be feeling, but they are never alone,” Maiberger said. “I would want them to know he was a precious angel and even more so now.”