A seven-year-old girl and her bus driver were killed in an accident Tuesday in Meigs County, in a crash with a utility truck that left one other student in critical condition, officials said.
There were 22 children on the bus when the crash happened on Highway 58 near the Bradley County line. Five were airlifted to a regional hospital, and two were taken by ambulance.
"It's been a tough day today," Meigs County Sheriff Jackie Melton said. "It's been tough on law enforcement and tough on first responders. We need to keep the families of all involved our prayers."
According to authorities, the Meigs County school bus was traveling south. An electric utility service vehicle was traveling north, veered off the road and then over-corrected by swerving into the bus's lane. The service vehicle went into a side-skid into the front of the bus, officials said.
Meigs County fatal school bus crash
"My sincere condolences to this community and to the family of the school bus driver and the family of the 7-year-old who was killed tonight in this crash," Tennessee Highway Patrol Lt. Bill Miller said.
The bus driver had no opportunity to stop, the THP said at a Tuesday evening news conference at Meigs South Elementary School in Decatur. The bus driver was a woman, and the student in critical condition and undergoing surgery as of late Tuesday night is a boy. No names were released pending notification of family.
"We've had a tragic night tonight in Meigs County," THP Lt. John Harmon said.
Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said in a statement that she and the entire staff at the Tennessee Department of Education are "deeply saddened" to hear about the crash.
"No words can express our sympathies for those lives that were lost. We send our deepest condolences to the students, families, school staff and leaders, district staff and the entire Meigs County community affected by this tragic accident and wish healing for all those injured. The department has communicated with district leaders and staff in Meigs County and surrounding areas and is mobilizing to support this community in safety response and services," the statement reads.
Meigs County schools superintendent Clint Baker said at the news conference, "Never in your wildest dreams do you know when you walk out the door that you'll deal with something like this. It's a tragedy. No other way to describe it. Keep our families in your prayers. That's the only thing that's going to help at this point - just turn it over to Him."
The driver of the utility vehicle, from Service Electric, is being treated for minor injuries.
Authorities are investigating the crash and will review whether any criminal charges are warranted.
A Meigs County school bus was involved in an accident. Injuries reported. Blood Assurance Cleveland, Downtown Chatt, Gunbarrel, and Hixson open until 10pm. Appointments are required. Call 800-962-0628, text BAGIVE to 999777, or by visit https://t.co/FZDLUPtw7v for an appointment. pic.twitter.com/UJLwAA6mkN— Blood Assurance (@bloodassurance) October 27, 2020