KNOXVILLE, Tenn. >> A student aboard one of two Tennessee school buses that crashed, killing two children and an adult, said she feared for her life as passengers were thrown from their seats and she tried to comfort fellow children who were scared, confused and hurt.
"Everyone just started crying, so I went over there hugging Lexi, my friend," fifth-grader Joy Reinmann told WBIR-TV (http://on.wbir.com/15ONCdA). "Her nose was bleeding and her lip, and oh my gosh, everyone was just crying. So I went and hugged everyone."
A preliminary investigation of Tuesday’s crash found that the buses were traveling in opposite directions on the Asheville Highway when the driver of a bus carrying children home from an intermediate school made a sudden left turn across the concrete median and crashed into the other bus.
The second bus, taking children home from a primary school, flipped onto its side. Three people in that bus died, and another three suffered serious injuries.
The National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday that it was sending investigators to the scene.
Also Wednesday, police identified the two children and teacher’s aide who were killed as Zykia Burns and Seraya Glasper, both 7, and Kimberly Riddle, 46.
An additional 27 people were injured.
Police identified the most seriously injured children as Jaden Allen and Jada Parman, both 7. They were taken to the University of Tennessee Medical Center along with the driver of the first bus, James Davenport, 47.
Six of the hospital’s eight patients have been discharged, spokesman Jim Ragonese said. A seventh, identified by police as a 7-year-old girl, is in stable condition, he said. No information was given on the eighth patient.
Other children were taken to the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital for what Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch described as "bumps and scrapes."
Joy Reinmann was among those with minor injuries. She ended up with a black eye, but her mother said she knows it could have been much worse.
"I’m relieved, I’m so relieved. I couldn’t imagine her not with me anymore," her mother, Joline, said.
Knox County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre fought back tears at a news conference. "This is an unspeakable tragedy," he said. "This is what we work every day to try to prevent."
Class was not being held Wednesday at either of the involved schools — Chilhowee Intermediate, third to fifth grades, and Sunnyview Primary, kindergarten to second grade — but counselors were available for students or families.