A Texas church bus crash has taken the lives of 13 people, after a bus and a pick-up truck collided head-on. The tragedy is the second fatal bus accident in Texas in a week, with an earlier school bus accident taking the life of a team coach. As investigators work to determine what caused the two fatal accidents, families and friends are left to deal with the devastating consequences of bus crashes.
Witness: Texas Church Bus Crash “Gruesome”
According to reports, the Texas church bus crash occurred around 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 29 when a bus and a Dodge pickup truck collided head on. The collision occurred on Highway 83 North near Garner State Park. Emergency units were on scene and one witness told reports there could be up to seven fatalities, though that number was soon increased to 13. Initially following the accident, officials would only say that multiple people had died in the accident.
“It really was a gruesome scene,” said Rick Ballesteros, who came across the scene of the accident.
The church bus was carrying seniors from First Baptist New Braunfels church from a retreat in Lakey, Texas. In the aftermath of the accident, the church canceled its evening activities, choosing instead to open the church for prayer and support.
“Please be in prayer for all involved,” a Facebook message from the church read.
12 People Dead at the Scene of the Uvalde Bus Crash
Officials told reports that 12 people died at the scene of the accident, including the bus driver. One person who was taken to hospital in San Antonio also died, increasing the fatality count to 13. A passenger on the church bus who is still in hospital is listed as being in critical condition. The driver of the pickup truck, 20-year-old Jack Dillon Young, is in the hospital in serious condition.
Names of Victims Released
Law enforcement officials released the names of the victims, all of which were over the age of 60.
- Howard Bryan Allen, 81, of New Braunfels
- Rhonda Barlow Allen, 61, of New Braunfels
- Avis Scholl Banks, 83, of Austin, Texas
- Harold Boyd Barber, 87, of New Braunfels
- Margaret Robinson Barber, 82, of New Braunfels
- Murray William Barrett, 67, of New Braunfels
- Donna Elizabeth Hawkins, 69, of Schertz, Texas
- Cristie Clare Moore, 68, of Cibolo, Texas
- Mildred Goodlett Rosamond, 87, of New Braunfels
- Addie Maurine Schmeltekopf, 84, of New Braunfels
- Sue Wynn Tysdal, 76, of New Braunfels
- Dorothy Fern Vulliet, 84, of New Braunfels
- Martha Holcomb Walker, 84, of New Braunfels
Still in hospital is 64-year-old Mary Rose Harris, of New Braunfels.
Officials Received Reports of “Erratic Driver” Prior to Bus Accident
Officials received at least three reports of an “erratic driver” in the moments leading up to the Texas church bus crash. Those reports involved a pickup truck driver operating his vehicle in an unsafe manner while traveling northbound on Highway 83. Although officers were on the lookout for an erratically driven pickup truck, they did not find it.
The accident occurred on a curve on Highway 83 when the northbound pickup truck veered into oncoming traffic and collided with the church bus. The NTSB is investigating the accident, including what caused the pickup truck to move into oncoming traffic.
“For reasons unknown, the truck veered into the southbound lane and struck the bus head on,” said Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Orlando Moreno.
The bus involved in the crash was a 2004 Turtle Top, though the model number has not been released.
Titus County School Bus Bus Crash Takes Two Lives
The Texas church bus crash was the second fatal bus crash in the state in a week. On March 23, a three-vehicle accident involving a school bus carrying a boy’s track team, a car carrying the track team’s assistant coach, and a semi-truck were involved in an accident in Titus County, Texas. The bus and car were traveling south on Highway 271, returning home from a meet in Paris, when the driver of the semi swerved into the southbound lane and collided with the bus and the car.
The driver of the car, 30-year-old Angelica Beard, who was also the Mount Pleasant High School women’s track team’s assistant coach, died as did the 50-year-old driver of the semi truck. At least two people on the bus, including the driver and another coach, were taken to hospital in critical condition. Up to 18 students were taken to hospital, most with minor injuries. The girls’ track team was on a separate bus and was not involved in the accident.
Officials noted that prior to the accident, the Department of Public Safety received reports of an erratically driven 18-wheeler, but they had yet to confirm the truck that was reported was the same as the one involved in the accident.
GoFundMe Account Set Up For Beard’s Family
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help Beard’s family cope with the loss. According to the page, Beard leaves behind two sons and a husband. As of March 29, the account had raised more than $37,000. While the money will help offset costs, it won’t ease the pain of the people who loved her.
“Her smile just lit up the room any time you were around her,” said Beard’s aunt, Glenda Clark. “She was just a blessing. She was my baby.”
Investigation to Examine Driver of 18-Wheeler Involved in Crash
Officials will conduct an autopsy on Bradley Ray Farmer, the driver of the truck involved in the crash, to determine if he suffered a medical issue prior to the accident or if there were substances in his system.
In both Texas bus accidents, the families of those injured and killed are left to deal with the aftermath as officials work to uncover what might have been done to prevent such tragedies, and advocates explore whether any safety measures could have protected bus passengers from serious injuries and death.