BENTON COUNTY, Miss. (localmemphis.com) – A heart attack is blamed for the death of a Mississippi school bus driver and the injuries of nearly a dozen students in an early Tuesday morning crash.
It happened a little after 6:30 a.m. near Ashland, MS, about 60 miles southeast of Memphis.
The Benton County, MS coroner said the bus driver, 63-year-old Chester Cole, died from “sudden cardiac arrest.” That caused a bus carrying Ashland High School students to off road and flip on its side.
Eight students were treated at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, four of them airlifted there. Doctors said they’re all expected to be OK, but some may need to stay a day or a few days. We are told a ninth child was taken to Methodist in Olive Branch, unknown condition.
“We do train for this all the time,” Dr. Regan Williams of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital said. “I cannot remember a bus accident this severe in a few years.”
Dr. Williams said the hospital’s disaster training just last week was fresh in the trauma team’s minds, as the Mississippi bus crash victims came in one by one.
“Emotionally, we just all get ready to treat the patients and make sure that everyone is available and on hand,” Dr. Williams said.
In Benton County, district leaders are mourning the loss of Cole, who worked in the district for five years. For Superintendent Steve Bostick or any superintendent, it’s a call you never want to receive.
“It’s just a tragedy that happened to our district and it’s very unfortunate that it happened,” Bostick said. “He was one of the most dependable drivers we had in the district. He was a very hardworking man. I’m sorry this happened. I give my regards to the family.”
“Just a little devastated but at least the good Lord was with everybody,” David Loyd said.
Loyd’s stepson Nathan and stepdaughter Halie were on the bus. While doctors released Nathan this afternoon, Loyd said Halie will stay at least one night with a broken jaw, ankle and leg in two places.
“Just make sure everyone keeps their thoughts and prayers with everybody,” Loyd said.
The Benton County Schools superintendent spent Tuesday afternoon checking on those students. Doctors also told Local 24 News parents of those patients were told to keep a close eye on signs for potential Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.