ACKERMAN, MS (WLBT) – An 18 wheeler collided with a Choctaw County school bus carrying Ackerman students returning from Oxford.
Three lives were lost and the small town of Ackerman is in mourning, but grateful for the lives that were spared.
A Choctaw Co. school bus dangled over the Yalobusha River Bridge on Highway 9 in Calhoun Co. after state troopers reported that it was hit head on by a tractor trailer.
It was 1 of 2 buses traveling south returning from Ole Miss around 2:30 Tuesday afternoon.
Ackerman teacher Phyllis Graham, 53 of Eupora, the bus driver, coach and teacher Steven Moss, 40 of Ackerman, as well as 18 wheeler driver Gary Bailey, 54 of Mantachie, were killed.
According to Choctaw County School officials, 62 Ackerman High School seniors were on board the buses.
Seven were transported to area hospitals with non-life threatening injuries.
One student was air lifted.
"They announced it over the intercom," said Ackerman High sophomore Abby Wood. "We were all upset and started crying."
Wood said her brother, Austin Davis, was on board the ill fated bus.
"He flew over some seats and he lost his phone, and he has a scratch on his knee maybe, I'm not sure." Wood said. "He's still trying to get through. He's trying to find his phone, but he's ok besides that."
"As horrible as it is, it's not as bad as it could have been," Ackerman Mayor Dick Cain said.
Senior Kaitlin Lawrence, Mayor Cain's granddaughter, was among the students returning from career day at Ole Miss and phoned her family immediately.
"To call her dad and tell him about the wreck," said Mayor Cain. "I don't know which bus she was on, but they were fine. That a lot of the kids were hurt, but they were fine."
The mayor said news spread quickly through the small close knit town of about 1,800.
The flags at Ackerman High School were flying at half staff Tuesday night.
Black ribbons adorned the doors.
"It's going to be hard," Choctaw County School Board President Linda McDaniel said. "The students are going to have a lot to cope with in the next while. We're getting through it with the Lord's help."
"We just thank everybody for their support,"said Choctaw County School Board member Mike Thomas. "Phones have been ringing off the hook, other school districts calling, state office calling just offering their support us and we certainly appreciate it."
A prayer vigil was held at the Baptist church in Ackerman Tuesday night for Mrs. Graham and Coach Moss.
Students at the high school said they will wear black to classes Wednesday in remembrance of them.
Officials with the Mississippi Highway Patrol said the driver of the tractor trailer scraped the side of the first bus before crashing into the bus behind it.
The cause of accident is still under investigation.
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