Four of the students needed to be extricated and three were listed in critical condition and were transported to area hospitals via AirMed.
The bus was on its second to last stop before dropping students, ages 5-17, off at Port Barre High School, which has students from all grades, when bus driver “Gil” Savoy, Jr., mayor of Port Barre, noticed an 18-wheeler approaching fast along Highway 190.
Savoy, serving as a substitute driver, is a retired bus driver with 35 years experience. According to a report, Savoy’s wife yelled for the students to “brace themselves” as he saw the 18-wheeler. His wife said he tried to do all he could but could not prevent any injuries. In fact, Savoy was forced to grip the wheel and try to keep the bus on the road. Savoy estimated that the bus was driven a mile from the intial impact.
The bus was stopped along a narrow shoulder on Hwy 190. The accident occurred near King’s Truck Stop along Highway 190 at about 7:30 a.m. Friday morning.
The 18-wheeler was driven by David Cox, 52, of Dallas, Texas. Both Cox and Savoy received minor injures and both were subjected to routine toxicology testing. Louisiana State Police Troop I Spokesman Stephen Hammons said charges were pending the final results of the investigation and tests.
The highway, which boasts a speedlimit of 65 mph in some areas, has several bus stops along it and has been a topic of some controversy in St. Landry Parish.
The initial investigation concluded and the accident site was cleared around 11 a.m.
Following the accident, the parish school board sent representatives to all the hospitals treating the injured children to keep them updated.
Most of the 21 students have been treated and released as was Savoy, but three students remained in critical condition. The injuries ranged from minor, to broken bones to head injuries. One of the students critically injured is said to be in the ICU at Lafayette General with brain swelling.
Two of the three critically injured students were brought to Lafayette General. Both underwent surgery yesterday. Ages for two of the three injured have been released, one child is five years old and the other is 15.
St. Landry Parish School Board member Anthony Standberry has requested a special meeting to discuss removing bus stops from the highway. Standberry says the board would need to meet with their transportation director as well as parents that typically use the stops to see if it would be feasible to have the students use other stops in less dangerous areas in order to prevent a situation like this from happening again.
Six hospitals were used to care for the 21 injured students. Opelousas General Hospital received nine students, one of which was transported to Lafayette General in critical condition via AirMed; Lafayette General Hospital initially received four children, two of which were in critical condition; Church Point General Hospital recieved one child; Ville Platte Medical Center cared for two students; Acadiana Medical Center out of Eunice treated two and Our Lady of Lourdes treated three.