Tinsel and Tutus @ Reynolds Performance Hall — 12/12/13
12/12 — The Conway Symphony Orchestra entertained with Christmas music, including highlights from The Nutcracker performed by the Arkansas Festival Ballet.
Erlanger docs say many kids arrived at hospital from bus wreck with no IDs, dazed, couldn't spell names, took hours to locate their parents.— Steve JohnsonT-FP (@SteveJohnsonTFP) November 22, 2016
Erlanger says donations to bus wreck survivors came from around the world, pizza ordered from Ohio— Steve JohnsonT-FP (@SteveJohnsonTFP) November 22, 2016
Thoughts, prayers to victims of tragic school bus crash in Chattanooga & their families. A very sad situation. Will do all we can to assist.— Gov. Bill Haslam (@BillHaslam) November 22, 2016
There are no words to comfort the broken heart of a mother or father. As I pray for families affected by tragedy, I ask you to do the same— Andy Berke (@AndyBerke) November 22, 2016
Devastating news coming out of Chattanooga. Thoughts and prayers with students and families of Woodmore Elementary School.— Butch Jones (@UTCoachJones) November 22, 2016
While hospital and emergency response officials praised the actions of paramedics, firefighters, police officers, and emergency room staffers in responding to Monday's school bus crash that left five children dead, there was general agreement that the horrific accident left many emotionally scarred.
"I've never seen a more upset group of ambulance workers," said one emergency room staffer, who asked to remain anonymous.
The scene inside the mangled bus "was pretty bad," Chattanooga Fire Chief Chris Adams said. "It was something you shouldn't ever see."
The first word of the accident came in about 3:20 p.m. - a bus crash with schoolchildren in it. But firefighters were not concerned.
"We have those from time to time, so everybody is not real ramped up when that comes in," Adams said Tuesday.
But that changed as soon as the first units reached the crash site on Talley Road and supervisors began hearing their radio conversations.
"You could hear it in their voices," Adams said.
At the offices of Hamilton County Emergency Medical Services, which dispatches ambulances countywide, the first indication the situation might be serious was a report that the bus was on its side.
"That kind of ratchets it up a notch," said Ken Wilkerson, director of emergency medical services.
The normal response is to send two ambulances and a supervisor, Wilkerson said. Then the first units arrived at Talley Road and declared a mass casualty event, and the metro area's emergency teams kicked into gear.
Adams and Wilkerson rushed to join Chattanooga police Chief Fred Fletcher in an improvised command post a short distance from the wreckage.
"There were patients on backboards to the right, children who looked fine were a little farther up," Adams said. "It was very heartbreaking, very chaotic at first."
Firefighters and EMTs began working to rescue children from the wreckage of the bus, which was twisted around a large tree.
"It was a very confined space,"Adams said. "The way the bench seats are made, they crumpled up and made a pinch point, and it was difficult to move tools."
"We realized the importance and urgency of the situation. It started hitting home when you heard parents asking about their kids," he said. "It was emotional for me personally, knowing what our firefighters were doing inside that bus."
"You had a totally collapsed interior with children trapped in the bus," Wilkerson said. "We had both paramedics and firefighters inside the bus providing patient care while [firefighters] were removing parts of the bus to gain access - seats, walls, ceiling panels, anything."
Firefighters used saws and the Jaws of Life machinery to push apart and cut through metal.
One child was pinned for two hours inside the wreckage. The victim "was alert and talkative the whole time, and the firefighters really bonded," Adams said.
But firefighters never learned the child's name or the extent of his or her injuries.
"One bad thing about the fire service is that we don't know the outcome of how those patients even do," Adams said. "We're hopeful we'll get information later on."
Fortunately, there were no fuel leaks and therefore no threat of a fire. A risk of sparks "would have changed everything about the tools we could have used," Adams said.
In all, Hamilton County EMS sent 12 ambulances, and four private ambulance services added another 10, Wilkerson estimated.
At Erlanger, security guards rushed to the lobby of T.C. Thompson Children's Hospital emergency room and asked reporters to leave to create a safe space for parents. Large blue curtains were draped across the sides of the portal outside the emergency room, to prevent bystanders from watching as children were carried inside, many on stretchers.
There were occasional outbursts of tears or anger as family members arrived.
For hospital personnel, a major headache was identifying their young patients, so they could connect them with their parents.
"They were all young children and they had no IDs with them when they arrived, and none of their parents were present," Dr. Darvey Koller, medical director for the emergency room at Children's Hospital, said in a press conference Tuesday evening. "They were all wearing uniforms and many were scared or too dazed to talk to us. Many were unable to spell their names, they didn't know their birthdates, and they didn't know their parents' names. Several said 'Mama' when asked what their mother's name was."
Hospital staffers took photos of the children and then relayed them to school teachers at Woodmore Elementary School to establish their identity and contact their parents.
Erlanger officials praised the rapid response to the accident, both inside and outside the hospital. "People dropped what they were doing and immediately went into action to help," Erlanger Chief Operating Officer Rob Brooks said.
Children's Hospital surgeon Dr. Lisa Smith thanked EMS workers and other first responders on the scene who "encountered horrific scenes and did an incredible job keeping the kids warm and safe."
She noted that at one point, she looked up and saw dozens of her former professors at the UT College of Medicine in Chattanooga, as well as other staffers from throughout the hospital "all lined up wanting to help."
Koller noted that many of the 19 children who were treated and released suffered from cuts and bruises and sore wrists or ankles. Hospital staffers were able to treat and release all of them within about two hours after they arrived at the hospital, he said.
While he has seen many terrible accidents in his 40 years as a paramedic, EMS Director Wilkerson said this one stood out.
"When it involves kids, it takes it to a different level," he said.
"I think the worst part was watching parents go into the rooms and come out sobbing," one emergency room staffer said. "A lot of them had to be wheeled out in wheel chairs."
Many firefighters and emergency rescuers are only now coming to terms with the emotional impact of Monday's rescue effort.
"We are very good at taking care of business while it is going on - there was no yelling, no screaming, everyone was very methodical," Fire Chief Adams said. "They're trained to do what they do the emotions don't come into it until it is over."
But at the same time, he said, "In your mind you're going, 'How could this happen?' There is kind of just disbelief."
"We all have children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Those kids were our family," Wilkerson said. "We hurt just like everyone does."
Contact staff writer Steve Johnson at 423-757-6673, email@example.com, on Twitter @stevejohnsonTFP, and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/noogahealth.
Woodmore Elementary school bus crash
- Community holds vigil to honor victims of fatal Woodmore school bus crash [photos]
- One year later: Have school buses gotten safer since the Woodmore crash?
- The legislation: Advocates hope to pass school bus seat belt bill in 2018
- The neighbors: Talley Road residents recount details of deadly crash
- Cooper: Woodmore bus crash offered lessons, realities
- A year of grief: Mother recalls tragic day she lost her daughter
- The first responders: Paramedics, police officers recall scene of crash [photos]
- Lawsuit: Woodmore employees say bus company responsible for emotional trauma
- Two more lawsuits point to negligence in deadly Woodmore bus crash
- Three more civil claims filed in Woodmore crash case
- Bus coalition says Durham drivers want to share safety concerns
- American Red Cross of Southeast Tennessee honors local heroes
- Hamilton County 911 receives award for response to Woodmore crash
- School bus driver in deadly Woodmore crash released from jail after making bond
- Trial date set for driver in fatal Woodmore Elementary School bus crash
- Lawsuit: Mother of child who died in Woodmore bus crash was tricked into legal agreement
- Bus driver in deadly Woodmore crash placed on supervised release
- State attorneys receive new information in Woodmore solicitation case
- Chattanooga firefighters recognized with 'Governor's Certificate' for Woodmore response
- Judge denies alternative sentence request for bus driver in deadly Woodmore crash
- Attorney: Second vehicle involved in deadly Woodmore bus crash
- Court date delayed for bus driver charged in Woodmore case
- Victim's mom posts court documents on Facebook, complicating trial in deadly Woodmore bus crash
- Woodmore bus driver faces additional charges after prosecutors pledge to bring more counts
- Prosecutors plan to bring more charges against Woodmore bus driver
- Attorney says Woodmore bus driver should get alternative sentence
- Texas firm denies any solicitation of Woodmore victims
- Woodmore families protest after school board renews bus company contract [photos]
- Out-of-town jurors will decide Johnthony Walker's fate in Woodmore bus crash trial
- Tennessee AG files lawsuit against Texas firm accused of deceiving Woodmore families
- Child Services confirms agency has been investigating Woodmore bus driver
- Woodmore: Johnthony Walker's attorney wants out-of-town jury
- Judge rules Woodmore attorneys can ask for pre-accident info from bus company
- Twelfth civil lawsuit filed in Woodmore bus crash
- New Woodmore lawsuit takes aim at predatory law firms
- New lawsuit accuses law firms of preying on Woodmore victims
- Two more lawsuits filed in connection to fatal Woodmore bus crash
- Law enforcement to follow, randomly ride in Hamilton County school buses in wake of fatal crash
- NTSB report recounts events leading up to fatal Woodmore school bus crash
- Woodmore Fund completes distribution of more than $500,000 in gifts from community to families
- Woodmore responders recount crash nightmare
- Woodmore bus crash: Can county turn back clock on bus privatization?
- Despite Woodmore crash, Hamilton County likely will extend contract with same bus company
- Tennessee's attorney general vows to take on any law firms that exploit the Woodmore crash victims
- Driver in fatal Woodmore school bus crash had previous accidents, infractions in personnel file
- Lawsuit filed against Hamilton County Schools in connection with fatal Woodmore bus crash
- Industry experts warn of predatory law firms in wake of Woodmore bus tragedy
- Woodmore Fund releases video appeal for relief funds ahead of holidays
- Last 2 Woodmore patients released from Erlanger to rehab facility [video]
- Sixth Woodmore bus crash lawsuit targets bus manufacturer]
- Two Woodmore bus crash victims still in Erlanger Children's Hospital
- Woodmore Fund begins to help families affected by fatal bus crash in Chattanooga
- Fourth and fifth lawsuits filed in Woodmore bus crash
- Remaining hospitalized children in Woodmore bus accident in fair condition
- Third lawsuit says bus crash causes child to suffer disfigurement, brain injury
- Durham claims it wasn't aware of all complaints against driver in deadly bus crash [photos]
- Chattanooga school bus driver refuses to speak with investigators in fatal crash probe
- School bus company addresses driver complaints prior to fatal bus crash, promises change [video]
- Second family files negligence lawsuit in connection with deadly bus crash
- Hearing for bus driver in Woodmore crash delayed
- School bus strikes pedestrian in Brainerd one week after deadly Woodmore crash
- Three Woodmore students still in critical condition; 5 total remain hospitalized
- No kids were on school bus that hit pedestrian on Brainerd Road
- Man allegedly using Woodmore victims to scam people for money
- Zyaira Mateen, 6: The girl who loved to read and dance
- D'myunn Brown: Six-year-old remembered as smart, funny
- Zyanna Harris, 10: Girl had energy and spunk
- Cor'Dayja Jones, 9: Fourth-grader was sweet and shy
- Keonte Wilson, 8: Rambunctious boy was youngest of four
- Zoie Nash, 9: She was cheerful and laid-back
- In the wake of the fatal bus crash, Chattanooga stands strong
- Cook: The Hallelujahs of Woodmore Strong
- Tennessee law caps damages for Woodmore victims, families
- Bus driver in fatal crash told school employee 'he did not care about the students,' school records show
- Family of bus crash survivor finds much to be grateful for
- Community gives $112,000 to families of children killed in bus crash
- Parents say they warned district employees before crash that bus driver drove too fast and was reckless
- Life-saving stability control mandatory in new cars but not required for school buses [video]
- A sixth child in Woodmore bus crash has died
- NTSB says Talley Road not on designated route for bus in fatal crash
- First lawsuit filed in connection with Monday's fatal bus crash
- Local agencies launch fund for families of school bus crash victims
- Brainerd crash: New details emerge on history of driver, bus company
- Families mourn Woodmore Elementary students killed in school bus crash
- Tragedy leaves many area first responders emotionally scarred
- Local lawmakers favor push for mandatory seat belts on school buses
- Community gathers at prayer vigil for victims of fatal school bus accident
- Neighbors recount moments following Monday's fatal crash, say driver had reputation for speeding
- Johnthony Walker crashed bus months before fatal accident
- A nation reacts to Monday's school bus crash tragedy
- McCormick to push bill requiring all Tennessee school buses have seat belts
- Haslam says 'time to have that conversation' about school bus safety
- Neighbors of the bus driver charged with vehicular homicide said he was 'just an ordinary guy'
- School bus service provider had 346 crashes in last two years, records show'
- Families identify all five children killed in bus crash
- Community rallies to support Woodmore families
- Blood Assurance needs O-negative blood donations
- School bus driver in fatal accident graduated from Brainerd
- 6 students in ICU after school bus driver charged in crash that killed Woodmore Elementary students
- Erlanger doctors say kids dazed, couldn't spell names on arrival
- Officials report multiple fatalities in school bus crash on Talley Road