Six people are confirmed dead and 18 injured after a school bus and a semi truck collided on an Ohio highway on Tuesday morning.
Five vehicles were caught up in the accident, which occurred shortly before 9am on Interstate 70 West in Licking County, near the Smoke Road underpass.
Three of the dead were students at Tuscarawas Valley Local Schools in Zoarville, and three were adult members of staff traveling in another vehicle. Their vehicles were en route to an Ohio School Boards Association conference in Columbus. The high school band was scheduled to perform at the conference.
The three students were named by local media as John W. Mosley, 18; Jeffrey D. Worrell, 18; and 15-year-old Katelyn Owens.
The three adults, all in the same car, were all members of staff at the school, and have been named as teachers Dave Kennat, 56, and Shannon Wigfield, 45, plus chaperone Kristy Gaynor, 39.
Shannon Wigfield, 45 (left) and Dave Kennat, 56 (right), both teachers, died in Tuesday’s crash
Kristy Gaynor, 39, was among the Tuscarawas Valley Local Schools teaching staff killed in Tuesday’s crash
The accident occurred shortly before 9am on Interstate 70 West in Licking County, near the Smoke Road underpass
Licking County Emergency Management Agency Director Sean Grady said the charter bus, seen here engulfed in flames, was transporting students from a school in eastern Ohio
Mosley, who went by Wyatt, was named last month as Fine Arts Student of the Month.
His profile, on the student website, said the 18-year-old was a member of the TVHS Marching Band, Select Choir, Drama Club and Track team, and was recently selected to participate in the Ohio Music Educators Association All-State Choir.
‘His hobbies include singing, programming & exercising. After graduation, Wyatt plans to take a gap year to pursue a career in acting and then go to college for computer programming,’ the school wrote.
Worrell, who went by JD, won the Fine Art accolade in May.
He was described as a member of the TVHS Marching & Concert Bands, Select Choir, Dram Club, Speech & Debate team and the Pep Club.
Worrell hoped to major in psychology and vocal music, or find a job doing voice overs or voice acting.
The semi truck rear-ended the bus, causing a massive fire which gutted the truck.
Sean Grady, director of the Licking County Emergency Management Agency, said the charter bus was transporting students from a school in eastern Ohio. There were a total of 57 people onboard, he said.
Images taken from the scene show the rear of the bus completely engulfed in flames.
Fifteen of the 18 injured are believed to be juveniles, and Tuscarawas Valley Local Schools said there may have been ‘serious injuries’ among the students.
Other images captured by traffic cameras and shared by the Ohio Department of Transportation show the emergency response at the scene.
Thick plumes of smoke can be seen emitting from the two vehicles, as a massive emergency services response works at the scene.
At least three people were killed and 15 injured following the incident early on Tuesday morning
Images taken from the scene show the rear of the bus completely engulfed in flames
Mike DeWine, the governor of Ohio, said his prayers go out to all involved in the crash and their families, and ordered flags to be flown at half staff.
‘This is our worst nightmare when we have a bus full of children involved in a crash and certainly the worst nightmare families can endure or a school can endure,’ he said.
He said the investigation into the crash will take some time. By 4:30pm on Tuesday, the eastbound highway had reopened but the westbound remained closed.
The bus was carrying Tuscarawas Valley students and chaperones to an Ohio School Boards Association conference in Columbus, Superintendent Derek Varansky said.
In a post to Facebook, Varansky said: ‘Today, a charter bus carrying Tusky Valley students and chaperones on the way to the Ohio School Boards Association conference in Columbus was involved in a very serious accident.
‘We understand from law enforcement that there may be multiple serious injuries and we are working to learn the details.
‘We will share news with you as we are able, including our plans for upcoming school days and events.
‘Right now, our focus is on getting in touch with our Tusky Valley families who had loved ones on the bus and providing support to our entire school community.
‘Our Trojan family is strong, and it will take that strength and love to get throughout these coming challenging days.’
Images captured by 10TV show how the rear of the bus was caught by the worst of the flames, while the semi-truck was completely gutted by fire.
The highway was closed in both directions on Tuesday after the 9am crash
Rescue workers are pictured on the scene on Tuesday in Ohio
Dozens of emergency personnel from across Licking County and eastern Franklin County were dispatched to the area on a report of a crash
Scanner traffic indicated that a tractor-trailer hit a commercial bus carrying dozens of passengers
A public safety notice was issued to drivers in the area of the crash, which noted that the closure would last several hours
A witness told ABC 6 that her 10-year-old granddaughter was very upset.
‘They said they saw a firefighter go into the burning bus just before it exploded,’ the grandmother said.
Chris McNeal, a trucker, called the wreck ‘catastrophic’.
He told ABC affiliate WSYX: ‘They had a ladder up in one window. It looked like they were in the rear of the bus trying to pull a couple people off.
‘One tractor-trailer is completely burned through; there’s a car that’s completely destroyed and burned through.’
The bus involved in the crash is from Pioneer Trails, a family-owned company operating for 40 years out of Millersburg, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
Pioneer Trails said in a statement that the company ‘is fully cooperating with the authorities as we work to find the cause of the accident’ and sends prayers to the victims and their families.
The Ohio Department of Transportation said the estimated duration of how long the road will be closed is not known at this time
Mickey Lymon, an investigator with the Licking County Coroner´s Office, said they had been called to the scene, but deferred other questions to the state police.
The American Red Cross of Central and Southern Ohio said it fulfilled a request for more blood from one hospital in the area, sending 30 units to a hospital in the Mount Carmel Health System, said Marita Salkowski, regional communications director.
A center was set up at a United Methodist Church in Etna for bus passengers not in need of medical attention to go to and contact loved ones, she said.