Two students are dead and three others were seriously injured after a Houston Independent School District (HISD) school bus was struck by another vehicle and plummeted from the 610 Loop early Tuesday morning.
The bus was transporting four students to Furr High School when the collision occurred on the eastbound frontage road of the South Loop in southeast Houston. Bus driver Louisa Pacheco overcorrected her actions to avoid further damage, careening the bus through the overpass guardrails to the street below, according to the Houston Police Department.
One female student, 17-year-old Mariya Johnson, was pronounced dead at the crash scene while the other, 14-year-old Janecia Chatman, was pronounced dead after being rushed to an area hospital. Pacheco and two surviving students, twins Brandon and Lakeshia Williams, were hurt and transported to nearby hospitals for treatment. Pacheco was reported to be in stable condition and has been released from the hospital.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy,” said HISD Superintendent Terry Grier, in a statement. “I ask all of the HISD community to join me in praying for all of those involved.”
According to HISD spokeswoman Holly Huffman, Pacheco has been with HISD for almost three years and has a clean driving record. HISD has roughly 950 buses on the road each day, transporting 34,000 students.
Records indicate that the bus, which was purchased in 2008, recently underwent a maintenance inspection in June. The bus was also equipped with two-point lap belts for students.
Footage from seven security cameras installed on the bus is being reviewed as part of the ongoing investigation by the Houston Police Department with assistance from HISD Police.
This tragedy is similar to the 2006 school bus crash in Huntsville, Alabama, when a bus carrying more than 40 high school students left an elevated portion of Interstate 565 and slammed into the ground below, killing four students and injuring 23 others. That bus also went over the side of the highway after being stuck by a car, ejecting the driver from the bus before it plummeted 40 feet from the bridge.
The incident reignited the debate of compulsory seat belt installation on school buses and whether or not Alabama should follow other states in requiring them.