Witnesses speak out after fatal bus crash

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UPDATE: The two other students in this morning's fatal bus crash have been identified as Brandon and LaKeisha Williams, cousins of the 14-year-old victim Janecia Chatman.

Two HISD students are dead after a school bus went plunging off the highway this morning in Southeast Houston on 610 at Telephone Road. 

Those who witnessed that fatal crash say they couldn’t believe they were seeing, an HISD school bus go bursting through the highway barrier on the South Loop East and smashing down to the feeder road below.  

Two teenaged girls, a 14-year-old Furr High School student and a 17-year-old attending REACH Charter School, were killed in the crash.  Turns out it was actually an HISD school teacher in another vehicle who caused the deadly wreck.

Just as strange as it is to see a school bus smashed on its side and mangled, it was certainly a surreal and shocking sight for drivers and their kids on 610 to see the bus go falling from the freeway onto the feeder with children inside.

"Coming down Telephone and seen the bus really just jump off the freeway,” explains one eyewitness.

"The bus lost control, all the tires blew out and it went straight over and that’s what we saw.  It was sad for me and my daughter to see that and more sad that somebody lost their child,” explains a witness named Anthony.

"I saw the tire go flat and the bus fell off the bridge,” adds 11 year old Jaedon.

Houston police say around 7:00 a.m. the HISD school bus was driving in the far right lane on the 610 Loop with four kids inside and headed to Furr High.  An HISD school teacher was driving a Buick LeSabre to the left of the bus and thought the vehicle left of her was drifting into her lane.  So she swerved, hitting the side of the school bus.

"She jerked the wheel to the right believing the vehicle was about to strike her vehicle.  She in turn ends up striking the left driver side of the school bus.  At that point the bus driver attempted to over correct, jerked the wheel to the right which is what caused the bus to go over the overpass,” explains Victor Senties with the Houston Police Department. 

"When it hit nose down it flipped over,” explains a witness.  Those who saw the fatal crash say the school bus wasn’t rolling on it’s side but went flipping back end over front end down the feeder road before landing on it’s side on the concrete embankment on Telephone Rd at the feeder.  "That’s a real good distance.  It was still traveling when it hit the embankment at almost 50 miles per hour,” says Anthony. 

Although there are seatbelts on the bus the students are not believed to have been wearing them.  It is not required by law for children to buckle up on buses.

"I was heartbroken.  I can’t even imagine how the parents feel.  I’m a parent myself.  Both my kids ride the bus,” says Tiffany Smith who came out to leave flowers at the scene and say a prayer for the parents.  There’s now a growing memorial where two girls who were headed to school, died in a school bus crash instead.

"I couldn’t imagine if it would have been my call, my phone ringing with that news.  I couldn’t imagine.  I’m just speechless,” says Marcus Johnson who’s also leaving balloons and flowers.

As for the school teacher who crashed into the bus? 

"Once Vehicular Crimes finishes their investigation they will provide that information to the DA’s office and they in turn will make a determination what if any charges should be filed or if any citations should be written,” explains Senties.
NTSB is now investigating.  Works crews have been at the scene since the accident working to get the broken barrier repaired.  There were two other students, one boy one girl on the bus.  Those students and the bus driver, Louisa Pacheco are in the hospital and are expected to survive.  Pacheco has been a bus driver for HISD for three years and has a clean driving record.