The female bus driver and a seven-year-old girl were killed when a Meigs County school bus collided with a utility vehicle on Highway 58 near the Bradley County line late Tuesday afternoon.
Seven other children were sent to Children's Hospital in Chattanooga, including one in critical condition. Five were airlifted and two taken by ambulance to the hospital.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol said the driver of the electric truck went out of control going northbound, then over-corrected and wound up in the same lane as the southbound school bus with 22 children aboard.
Photos from the scene showed the front of the school bus demolished with all the front glass shattered. The utility truck wound up nearby at a side road.
The wreck was in a curve of Highway 58.
Emergency personnel were transporting injured persons by ambulance as well as helicopter.
The wreck was at 7751 Highway 58, north of the intersection with Lamontville Road.
Meigs County Schools said Bus #12-1 was taking children home on the afternoon route on Highway 58 south. School officials said, "At present all families have been notified and children have returned home with a family member or were taken to area hospitals for treatment."
Students on the bus were sent to Meigs South Elementary School, where parents could pick them up.
Blood Assurance quickly responded to the school bus crash in Meigs County by extending center hours until 10 p.m. Cleveland, Downtown Chattanooga, Gunbarrel, and Hixson centers will also be open until 10 p.m. on Wednesday to help the critical need. All eligible donors are encouraged to make an appointment to donate blood.
“This is a very critical need and we are asking anybody who can donate blood to schedule an appointment right now,” said Dr. Elizabeth Culler, medical director at Blood Assurance. “Blood cannot be manufactured and we count on regular people to be heroes every day by donating blood and saving lives. It was the blood on the shelf yesterday that helped treat patients today.”
Officials said, "Blood Assurance is continuing to take extra precautions at this time to ensure the safety of donors and staff. Staff and donors are required to wear masks and staff are frequently disinfecting all items and surfaces used by donors. We are also accepting donors by appointment only. Blood donation is essential to the infrastructure of healthcare and the only way to ensure patients have the blood they need is for people to donate. Blood cannot be manufactured and all blood used in community hospitals is from volunteer donors."
To be eligible to donate blood, you must be at least 17 years old (16 years old with parental consent), weigh 110 pounds or more and be in good health. Donors are asked to drink plenty of fluids - avoiding caffeine - and eat a meal that is rich in iron prior to donating. To schedule an appointment or find a donor center or mobile drive near you, please visit www.bloodassurance.org/schedule, call 800-962-0628 or text ‘BAGIVE’ to 999777.
The Highway Patrol said, "Our thoughts are with all parties involved."
Governor Bill Lee said, "Maria and I are deeply saddened by the loss of life and injuries sustained in the school bus crash in Meigs County this afternoon. We offer prayers of comfort to the families that are hurting tonight and our full support to the community in the days ahead."
State Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said, “I and the entire staff at the Tennessee Department of Education are deeply saddened to hear about the fatal bus crash in Meigs County earlier this afternoon. No words can express our sympathies for those lives that were lost. We send our deepest condolences to the students, families, school staff and leaders, district staff and the entire Meigs County community affected by this tragic accident and wish healing for all those injured.
"The department has communicated with district leaders and staff in Meigs County and surrounding areas and is mobilizing to support this community in safety response and services.”