USA — ODESSA, Texas — An accident Sunday morning in East Texas involving an Ector County Independent School District bus that was on its way back to Odessa sent 12 students to four different hospitals with injuries that were not considered life-threatening.
Returning from their annual spring trip, 33 students with ECISD’s Horticulture club and the nine sponsors attending the trip in Huntsville were involved in a collision around 9 a.m. near Madisonville. Because the hospital in Madisonville was not big enough for all the students, ECISD Greenhouse Instructor Nathan Pettigrew said some students were transported to hospitals in Centerville, Crockett, and Palestine.
Those not transported by EMS were taken to Centerville High School.
After the group was reunited at the school, a Centerville Independent School District bus was scheduled to take the group to a midway point where a bus from ECISD would bring the group back to Odessa, ECISD Communications Director Mike Adkins said.
“They (Centerville ISD) have been very, very helpful with this,” Adkins said.
Madisonville is about 450 miles away from Odessa and about 160 miles outside of Fort Worth.
An accident report was not completed by Texas Department of Public Safety troopers by Sunday afternoon regarding the incident; however, Pettigrew said the accident happened when the bus was directed by police to change lanes due to a large grass fire in the area and a fire engine collided with the bus.
“After the accident, my first thought was, ‘I got the kids off the bus and get them in a safe area,’ ” Pettigrew said. “Ironically enough, the bus was involved in an accident with emergency crews.”
Getting the students off the bus, Pettigrew said he separated those who needed treatment from those who didn’t. Pettigrew also said he made sure there was an appropriate sponsor going to each hospital, made sure all parents were aware of the situation and then began calling ECISD officials.
The biggest break for Pettigrew came after he said emergency personnel made contact with the superintendent at Centerville, listed in the district’s website as Cathy Nichols.
“They immediately got on the phone, got things set up and bused the students out,” Pettigrew said.
Pettigrew also said several first responders asked him how the bus driver managed to keep the vehicle upright, something he credits for the reason there weren’t any serious injuries.
“I don’t understand how he kept the bus from flipping but he did,” Pettigrew said. “That was probably what kept the kids from being seriously injured because he didn’t let that bus roll.”
Flor Del Bosque, whose 17-year-old Valerie Gallegos is a Permian junior, said she had received three calls from her daughter: once after the incident happened, another when students were being transported and before the group left the area.
During the conversations, del Bosque said her daughter told her about suitcases falling down from how the impact was so hard the fire engine’s hose was attached to the bus after the accident.
“She said it happened next to a ditch and they were lucky not to go in,” Bosque said.
Also a cheerleader, del Bosque said Valerie originally declined to go to the hospital in the morning, but was later saying it was starting to hurt more and more. Del Bosque said she would take her daughter to the doctor’s office when she got home.
Also a cheerleader at Permian, Valerie takes several trips with the school and said she did not mention any anxiety about getting on a bus for the trip home.
“She was just surprised and more in shock and being thankful the injuries were minor,” her mother said.