Four collegiate softball players died Friday when an 18-wheel semi truck collided head-on with their team bus. The bus was carrying the softball team from North Central Texas College and was being driven by the team's head coach when the semi crossed the median and hit the bus near Davis, Oklahoma.
The team was returning from a scrimmage against Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Oklahoma.
"This is the most traumatic event that NCTC has had in its 90 years of history," college president Brent Wallace said in a news conference held at the school on Saturday. North Central Texas College is located in Gainesville, Texas, about 70 miles north of Dallas.
Reports say the bus was carrying 15 players and the head coach. The four players killed in the accident were identified by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol as Meagan Richardson, 19, Brooke Deckard, 20, Katelyn Woodlee, 18 and Jaiden Pelton, 20. The women were all from small Texas towns near the school's campus. Three were pronounced dead at the scene while the fourth died at a nearby hospital. One other student-athlete was in critical condition on Saturday and another was hospitalized, but listed in fair condition.
Kenedi Jackson was one of the survivors, tweeted this following the accident.
Katelynn, Brookie, Bev & Jay FLY HIGH MY BEAUTIES! pic.twitter.com/ZeEwTGTShP— Kenedi Jackson† (@kenmaeg8) September 28, 2014
The accident has shaken the close-knit community college of about 10,000 students.
"It's just an amazing family of girls and athletes and coaches," Rich Raymond, the father of one of the accident's survivors told CBS News. "Just such a tight community. And even if your girl isn't going to the school there's a lot of pain right now."
A vigil was held at the school on Sunday evening.
According to CBS, it's still unclear why the northbound tractor-trailer crossed the median and entered the southbound lanes. Police said they would investigate the accident as if it were a homicide. The driver of the semi, Russell Staley, 53, of Saginaw, Texas was treated at a nearby hospital and released. As of Saturday, there were no charges pending against Staley.
According to a tweet from the National Transportation Safety Board, "NTSB investigators estimate truck traveled 820 feet through median at a shallow angle before striking bus." Another tweet read: "NTSB investigators have found no anomalies with brakes on the truck involved in the Oklahoma truck/bus crash."
The scene of the crash was described as chaotic with 11 ambulances and several helicopters responding. It took officials about an hour to find the semi truck as it had swerved off the road and into a deep ravine.
Unfortunately, this is not the first bus crash we've covered at AB. A string of crashes in 2013, prompted colleague Paul Steinbach to examine bus safety in this 2013 feature story.
"For many observers, the 2007 bus crash that killed five members of the Bluffton University baseball team and two others had become a tragic but distant mile marker in the mind's rearview mirror," he wrote. "But here it is again, lending context to a motorcoach safety movement gaining momentum in the wake of three separate team bus accidents — one fatal — within the span of 18 days this year."
Just more than a year later, here it is again.