Three adults killed, dozens of Ackerman students injured in wreck on Hwy. 8 south of Calhoun City

bussmall011By JOEL McNEECE
Three people were killed and dozens of high school students injured following a collision involving a Choctaw County School bus and an 18-wheeler on Hwy. 8 just south of Calhoun City Tuesday afternoon.

 


By JOEL McNEECE

Three people were killed and dozens of high school students injured following a collision involving a Choctaw County School bus and an 18-wheeler on Hwy. 8 just south of Calhoun City Tuesday afternoon.
The crash occurred around 2 p.m., on a bridge near the Blue House Road exit.
The 18-wheeler, based out of Pontotoc, was headed east when it side-swiped the first of two buses carrying Ackerman High School students home from a “career day” at Ole Miss.
“It knocked out all of the windows down the side of that bus,” Calhoun City Asst. Police Chief Greg Pollan said.
The second school bus, also filled with approximately 30 students, couldn’t avoid the large truck as they met on the bridge and the two vehicles hit virtually head-on. The bus came to a stop lying across the guardrail.
Three people were in-stantly killed. Calhoun County Medical Examiner Jerry Fleming confirmed the dead were Phyllis Graham, from Eupora, a teacher at Ackerman; Steven Moss, 37, the school bus driver, assistant football and golf coach at Ackerman; and the driver of the 18-wheeler, Gary Bailey, 54, of Guntown.
bus011Local fire departments used the “jaws-of-life” to remove the bodies from the wreckage after all the other patients were transported from the scene. The de-ceased were first transported to Pryor Funeral Home and later sent to Jackson for autopsies.
All of the students were helped off both buses by the bus driver and a chaperone from the first bus.
They gathered south of the scene and were ultimately loaded on a Calhoun County school bus and transported to the Calhoun City Fire Department where a triage unit was set up.
Calhoun City Fire Chief Larry Goodwin declared the scene a “disaster” upon his arrival, implementing the county’s disaster plan.
“The plan outlines exactly what is to be done and informs the dispatchers ex-actly who to contact without us having to take up that time from the scene,” said Calhoun City Fireman Jess Moore.
An army of doctors, nurses, EMRs and other volunteers rushed to the fire department to treat the students upon arrival.
One student was airlifted from the scene and carried to North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo. Six others were transported by ambulance from the scene to area hospitals. None were considered to have “life-threatening” injuries.
Moore said he knew many more were ultimately sent to the hospital from the fire station.
“We also heard that the hospital in Eupora had at least 17 walk-ins from the wreck,” Moore said. “Those were people who refused treatment here, but when they got home and the adrenaline wore off, they realized they needed some attention.”

The Associated Press reported four of the students remained hospitalized Wednesday morning.

Moore, who has served on the fire department for 11 years, said he’s never experienced an emergency scene like this before.
“The sheer volume of having 60-something patients is overwhelming,” Moore said. “You can plan and practice for all kinds of emergencies, but everything is different. There’s no way you can be totally prepared for something of this magnitude.”
Calhoun County Sheriff Billy Mac Gore was among those on the scene helping to direct traffic, which was blocked for nearly five hours after the wreck.
“I’ve been in law enforcement for more than 40 years and have seen a lot of terrible accidents, but this was the worst by far,”  Gore said.
bus008Debris filled the highway from where the 18-wheeler came to a stop, approximately 100 yards away from the bridge, to the bus that knocked out much of the bridge’s guardrail.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of the three individuals that lost their lives in an accident today,” said Dr. Tom Burnham, State Superintendent of Education, in a press release. “The Mississippi Department of Education is working with local school districts, along with the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University, to provide counselors to support students and teachers. Please continue to keep the students, teachers, staff and the entire Choctaw County community in your thoughts and prayers.”
Every fire department and virtually every law enforcement agency in Calhoun responded. Also at the scene were sheriff departments from Chickasaw and Choc-taw counties.
The accident attracted a large throng of media. The Journal fielded calls and provided information for network television stations in New York, Los Angeles, MSNBC, three Memphis TV stations, two Jackson TV?stations, Associated Press and more.

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