Funeral service set for Athens middle school student killed in bus, train collision

Athens ISD elementary student out of ICU following fatal school bus, train collision

ATHENS, TX (KLTV) - A funeral service has been set for an Athens Middle School student who was killed in a crash involving a school bus and train.

On Jan. 25, an Athens ISD school bus collided with an Union Pacific train near the Cream Level Road railroad crossing. According to Athens police, the train and the bus came to a stop a quarter of a mile away from the initial collision at the Murchison Street crossing.

Three people were on the bus at the time of the crash.

WEBXTRA: School continues for Athens ISD students following bus, train collision

Christopher Bonilla, a 13-year-old student at Athens Middle School, was killed in the crash. According to a press release from Athens police, he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Christopher Bonilla, a 13-year-old student at Athens Middle School, died in a crash involving a school bus and a train. (Source: Athens ISD)
Christopher Bonilla, a 13-year-old student at Athens Middle School, died in a crash involving a school bus and a train. (Source: Athens ISD)

Athens ISD reported Monday on their Facebook page there will be a funeral service for Bonilla on Friday. The service will be held at 11 a.m. at the Athens High School gymnasium. Athens ISD said there will be no school for the district that day and all athletic events set for Friday have been rescheduled.

The funeral for Christopher Bonilla will be held Friday at 11 a.m. at the Athens High School gymnasium. There will be no...

Posted by Athens Independent School District - Texas on Monday, January 28, 2019

An Athens Central Elementary School student, 9-year-old Joselyne Torres, and the bus driver, 78-year-old John Stevens, of Mabank, were both injured in the crash. Torres was taken to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas.

Toni Clay, a spokeswoman for Athens ISD, reported on Jan. 28 Torres has been moved from the ICU and is in stable condition.

The district announced Monday afternoon that a benefit account has been set up for both children’s families at First State Bank. Deposits can be made at the following locations: downtown Athens, Tyler Street, Malakoff, Mabank, Gun Barrel City and Corsicana.

Stevens was transported to UT Health East Texas in Athens, where he was treated and later released.

Clay says Stevens' first day with Athens ISD was on August 31 and that she was told he had 11 years of bus driving experience before working for Athens ISD.

She said she could not speak about Stevens' current employment status but that the district had no incidents with him prior to Friday’s collision.

VIDEO: Athens ISD officials provide update on fatal school bus, train collision

“There are cameras on the bus. The footage has been turned over to the Athens Police Department which they are using as part of their investigation,” Clay said.

Classes continued as usual for Athens ISD on Monday. School buses ran their normal routes, according to Clay, with a school resource officer on board the bus that’s on the route involved in the crash.

“On the routes where we feel like the children would be most likely to need extra reassurance, we have additional adults staffed on those buses who were there this morning and who will be there this afternoon,” Clay said.

She added that the district is not looking at any policy changes right now.

"“It’s too early at this point for there to be even a discussion of policy change because the investigation is ongoing. We’re cooperating fully with that investigation and if we need to address it we will. Right now the focus is really on ministering to the needs of our students as well as our staff.”

Seventeen volunteer grief counselors are spread across all of the campuses with a focus on the two campuses affected. Clay said the counselors will be available to staff and students for as long as needed.

“We’re just going to take the temperature of each campus and see how the kids are responding and what their needs are, and then we’ll adjust as we need to. We have more resources to draw on and if we have to we will,” Clay said.

East Texas is coming together in order to show support for the Athens community. The word was spread over the weekend for East Texans to wear maroon on Monday in support of Athens ISD.

“We have lost students before. To the best of my knowledge, we have never lost a student before while in our care, and this word is being used a lot, but it’s the only word I can think of and it’s devastation. We are absolutely devastated," Clay said.


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