The death toll continued to climb following a fiery crash involving a bus filled with band members and chaperones from an Ohio high school, Fox News reported. The bus was rear-ended by a semi-truck shortly before 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Initial reports of the crash included three dead and 15 injured. However, it was later amended to six dead and 18 injured in the crash that involved five vehicles, including the bus that carried 54 people from the school, the Associated Press reported.
Three of the six deceased were high school students Katelyn N. Owens, 15, Jeffery D. Worrell, 18, and John W. Mosely, 18. "This is our worst nightmare when we have a bus full of children involved in a crash," Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said at a news conference Monday from the scene.
"Prayers go out to the families, everyone who was on the bus," he added. The remaining fatalities were adults following the bus in another vehicle on the same trip, including Kristy Gaynor, 39, Shannon Wigfield, 45, and Dave Kennat, 56.
Kennat was a teacher, and Gaynor and Wigfield were parents who were chaperoning. They were traveling in the same vehicle and were pronounced dead at the scene.
The circumstances of the crash are still being investigated, but it is believed a semi-truck struck the Pioneer Trails charter bus in the rear, setting off a chain reaction accident. At least three of the vehicles involved caught fire following the crash.
Several first responders made it to the smoke-filled scene to attend to the victims while police closed that section of the highway. Drivers were redirected away from exit and entrance ramps, which caused traffic to back up in the neighboring area.
The injured bus passengers were taken to an area hospital, while those who did not need medical attention were sent to the United Methodist Church in Etna, where they could wait for their families. The Red Cross sent 30 units of blood to an area hospital to help with all of the crash victims.
The students and chaperones on the bus were from the Tuscarawas Valley Local School District. They were on their way to the Ohio School Boards Association conference in Columbus, Ohio, for a band performance, according to Tuscarawas Valley Superintendent Derek Varansky.
"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," he wrote on Facebook about the situation. Later in the morning, parents convened at the Tuscarawas Valley Middle-High School to pick up their children.
Officials from the school debriefed parents before allowing them into the building to retrieve students. Parents were predictably distraught about the accident, including those who were able to retrieve the kids who survived.
"I’m sick. I’m sick to my stomach," Laurie Fragasse, who was picking up her daughter, told the press.
National Transportation Safety Board Chairperson Jennifer Homendy was in Columbus as soon as Tuesday evening to sort out the circumstances that led to the crash. She said the transportation disaster assistance team has nine investigators and two additional personnel assigned to the case.
It is every parent's worst nightmare to receive such news about their children. The community will need time to heal from such a loss, and finding out what happened will go a long way to helping them pick up the pieces.