MESQUITE, Texas - The accident report from Wednesday’s deadly school bus crash in Mesquite describes how the driver lost control, but it does not explain why.
The Mesquite ISD bus carrying 42 students from Terry Middle School crashed Wednesday afternoon on Lawson Road near Interstate 20. Police said the bus rolled into a ditch, hit a power line and caught fire.
The student who was killed, 12-year-old Jazmine Villarreal, was trapped and could not escape, according to police. First responders and witnesses worked to get the students out. They tried to get Jazmine out but could not save her.
The bus driver, three other students and three police officers were taken to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries. The bus driver has been identified as 67-year-old John Johnson. Police sources tell FOX 4 he did not indicate he had any medical problems before the crash.
One driver who was behind the bus told police he saw the rear wheels drop off the right side of the pavement. The bus driver swerved left into oncoming traffic, then swerved right and overturned. The bus slid into a utility pole and caught fire when a power line fell on it.
“Her life has just been cut way too short. It's not right, and somebody needs to tell us why,” said Alecia Torres, Jazmine’s godmother. “Her birthday would’ve been in January, and she’s not going to be home to celebrate that now. Instead, she will be forever memorialized at 12.”
Torres says Jazmine’s mom was waiting at the parent pickup point at Terry Middle School for news of both her daughters on the bus. Jazmine’s younger 11-year-old sister got out safely, but Jazmine was unaccounted for. It’s something Jazmine’s surviving sister has guilt over.
“One of the main things she’s been saying is, ‘What if I would’ve sat with her? What if I would’ve went back for her? What if I would’ve grabbed her and made sure she made it off?’” Torres said.
It wasn’t until Thursday morning that authorities officially confirmed Jazmine was the student killed. But her family already knew. They were asked to provide her dental records to authorities to be used in her identification.
“What was going on that the bus swerved? Was there no kind of training to keep the bus from doing that? Why do we have to be the only family that is now grieving the loss of a child?” Torres said. “They need to stop sending buses down that road or tomorrow, is it going to be somebody else’s child?”
The students and staff at Terry Middle School, as well as nearby Horn High School, wore blue Thursday in honor of the student who was killed. The Horn students also brought flowers to Terry Middle School principal. Staff and counselors comforted students as they arrived for classes.
Students who knew the seventh-grader fought back tears. They're also getting support in the aftermath of the fiery school bus crash. A memorial of balloons and stuffed animals for Jazmine is growing at the spot where the bus flipped and caught fire.
“She was a really nice person and she loved to play around a lot and she was good at her sport,” Na’Kyra Moore said tearfully. “And she was just… she had a good personality and she was just really friendly.”
13-year-old Kimberly Colchado was one of the 42 students on board the bus. Her account is similar to the accident report.
“I turned to my left and I see the girl beside me holding on her seat,” she recalled. “I look up and all I remember seeing is the bus driver trying to control the steering wheel and just turning it to the right and that's when we flipped."
Kimberly’s perspective was from the back of the bus. She was three seats from the rear emergency exit.
“I looked up and there were people hanging because we still had our seatbelts on,” she said. “And actually the girl who passed away, she was in the seat kind of beside me."
The police report says Jazmine was trapped and unable to escape.
“The girl who was in the seat beside her, she was trying to actually help her too,” Kimberly recalled. “And that's when I unbuckled my seatbelt and I looked down and there was already fire coming out and that's when I see smoke."
Kimberly had to get stitches in her ear as she climbed through tree branches to get out of the burning bus.
“All I heard was people screaming, ‘Get out! Get out!’ People got out in different ways,” she recalled. “I don't know how. I just remember some people got out from the back."
Mesquite Police say four responding officers immediately began getting children out of the burning bus. Three of them were treated for smoke inhalation.
“I just started praying that if anything happened to me because it is not my time. I am too young for this,” Kimberly said.
Some who stopped by the growing memorial had no connection to the victims. They just wanted to share their sympathy and concern.
"I just know that their baby is with God already,” said Nayeli Garcia. “And he's going to take good care."
Other schools in the district are also showing their support. At Horn High School, a donation drive collected backpacks and school supplies for students who lost their belongings in the accident.
The Mesquite school district dispatched counselors to Terry Middle School and others to help students dealing with their emotions while processing the sudden loss of a classmate and friend.
The National Transportation Safety Board has reached out to offer assistance in the investigation.