One middle school student from Mesquite Independent School District near Dallas, Texas, died, and four others were sent to the hospital, following a school bus roll-over and fire.
The bus, which was reportedly equipped with seat belts, was carrying about 40 students Wednesday afternoon from Terry Middle School, Mesquite ISD said. The district stated that the driver and three students were taken to the hospital, while 37 were transported to the middle school to be reunited with their parents. One female student, later identified as 12-year-old Jazmine Villarreal, died at the scene, said Lt. Stephen Biggs of the Mesquite Police Department.
As of Thursday morning, the three students had been treated and released, but one more student was transferred to the hospital for an MRI. The bus driver was last reported to be “in good condition.” Three police officers were also treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
According to police, the bus rolled into the ditch and hit a power line, sparking the fire. Mesquite ISD confirmed that the bus was the only vehicle involved in the crash. Video, which can be viewed at the end of this article, showed the bus lying on the side of the road, with the front blackened by the fire.
Students who were aboard the bus told NBCDFW that the bus “started swerving left and right,” then “slammed into an electric pole and started getting smoky and fiery.” One girl said another student she didn’t know helped her unbuckle her seat belt to escape the bus.
A line item in the district’s student handbook stating that students must “(f)asten their seat belts, if available,” indicates that at least some of the district’s buses have seat belts. Local news outlets, including 12 News Now and 21 CBS Local, reported that the bus that crashed was equipped with seat belts, but reports did not indicate whether they were two- or three-point belts. However, Texas law requires lap-shoulder seat belts on all new school bus purchases, unless the local school board advises the community in a public meeting that it can’t afford the occupant restraint systems.
District officials told 21 CBS Local that the bus driver had no prior incidents. Reporters also spoke with a student who said she was seated near the female student who died.
“All I remember is seeing her and the girl beside her hanging, and that’s when the girl beside her tried to hold her. She was trying to help her, but she got out and she couldn’t help her,” the student related.
Local news channel 12 News Now spoke to a parent, who said that the incident was so troubling that her daughter will not be riding the school bus anymore.
“Community members, MISD employees and first responders acted quickly and risked their own lives to save these children,” the district said on Tuesday evening. “We know these citizens saved many lives tonight, and we are deeply moved by and thankful for their heroic acts.”
Counselors were made available for students and bus drivers.
“We are so humbled and grateful for the outpouring of love and support shown within our district, as well as by parents, the community and other school districts. Please continue to keep the families, students and staff of Terry in your thoughts, especially the family of the student,” Mesquite ISD requested.
The district, which transports over 7,000 students via 169 buses and 111 routes every day, stated on its website that employees driving district vehicles are required to:
- Keep safety above expediency.
- Comply with all traffic laws and safe driving practices.
- Ensure that the safety of the students, district employees and citizens of Mesquite are paramount.
- Drive to prevent accidents, in spite of the incorrect actions of others and adverse conditions.
The cause of the crash is still under investigation, Mesquite Mayor Stan Pickett said. A spokesman at the National Transportation Safety Board’s Office of Media Relations said the NTSB was not currently investigating the crash, but was gathering information on it, with further updates to come.