Authorities investigating a school bus crash that killed one student and injured another student and the bus driver in Athens, Texas, Jan. 25, say they don’t know why the driver took the bus into the path of a Union Pacific freight train.
Athens Police said the school bus, driven by John Stevens, 78, came to a stop before the train tracks on North Murchison Street, yet continued for unknown reasons to cross directly in front of the Union Pacific train.
The freight train struck the school bus and continued to push it about a quarter of a mile down the tracks while slowing to a stop. Emergency workers arrived at the scene to find the school bus still wrapped around the front of the locomotive.
Christopher Bonilla, a 13-year-old Athens Middle School student, was ejected from the school bus and died near the scene of the crash. Rescuers had to extricate another student, identified as 9-year-old Joselyne Torres, who was trapped inside the crashed bus. The girl was flown by helicopter to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas for treatment where she remains in stable condition after undergoing surgery.
Mr. Stevens was also taken to the hospital for treatment and released. He and the two children were the only people on the school bus.
According to the Tyler Morning Telegraph, police say the crossing where the school bus crash occurred is marked with railroad crossing and yield signs, and a person who witnessed the crash reported that the train sounded its horn as it approached the intersection.
The crash remains under investigation. The Athens Independent School District and Union Pacific Railroad are cooperating with investigators.