ATHENS, TX (KLTV) - At least one person has died following a Friday crash involving a school bus and a train in Athens.
An official with Union Pacific confirmed that the crash occurred just after 4 p.m. when a UP train and a bus collided at a crossing.
At a press conference Friday night, Fire Chief Russell Marshall said that when first responders arrived, the 13-year-old male Athens Middle School student was found deceased.
A 9-year-old girl was alive, and was trapped inside the bus. She was removed by first responders using heavy extrication equipment. She was taken to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. She is listed as critical but stable, Morris said.
The bus driver was found outside the bus, and he was taken by ambulance to a local hospital.
Marshall confirmed that there were no arms or lights at the Cream Level Road intersection where the wreck happened; he said that there were only signs at the crossing. He said the train was westbound on the tracks when it collided with the southbound bus.
Athens ISD Superintendent Blake Stiles said, “I’ve been in this profession for 21 years and this is by far the worst day of all those years," later adding that it was “a superintendent’s nightmare.”
He thanked the first responders and all others who responded to the scene. He said the school district will fully cooperate with the investigation as it goes forward.
Stiles also added, " I have already heard from many, many superintendents and counselors offering to help, and they will be here on Monday when the kids get back (to school)."
Stiles said that the driver has been with the school system for about one year.
A prayer vigil is being held tonight for the victims of the wreck.
Police Chief Hill said it appears that the bus was pushed about 1/4 of a mile down the tracks, but that has not been confirmed officially.
An official from the Union Pacific Railroad said that their employees were not injured in the wreck. The official said that an outward-facing camera on the train will be checked to see how the crash happened, and she said Union Pacific will work with law enforcement during the investigation.
She added, “There really are not any words we can say that express our sympathies to the families and the kids and the driver on board. We are definitely keeping them in our thoughts tonight.”
The school system has canceled all school activities for Friday night.
Allison Pollan with UT Health East Texas says their EMS officials responded to the scene. They transported one of the patients who was injured.
Athens ISD released a statement on the crash Friday:
It is with great sorrow that we confirm one of our precious middle school students lost his life today when a district school bus collided with a train in Athens. One other student on the bus, a female at Central Athens Elementary, was careflighted to Children’s in Dallas. The bus driver was transported by ambulance. No other students were on the bus. We ask that you join with us in humbly praying for their families.
Marshall said that law enforcement and firefighters will remain at the scene through the night.