Oklahoma authorities investigating a school bus crash that killed a middle school student and two others Saturday night say the crash may have been caused by a drunk driver.
The fatal crash occurred near the town of Bowlegs in central Oklahoma when an SUV tried to pass the school bus on Highway 377. According to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, the SUV was traveling in the northbound lane of the two-lane highway and entered the southbound lane to pass another vehicle.
The school bus, traveling in the southbound lane, swerved into the northbound lane to avoid the SUV. At the same moment, the SUV driver swerved back into the northbound lane, hitting the school bus head-on.
The bus was carrying six students from the Konawa Junior High School girls softball team back home after a game in nearby Okemah. Twelve-year-old Rhindi Kay Isaacs, a member of the softball team, died at the scene as a result of “multiple injuries” and the other girls were taken to Alliance Health in Seminole where they were treated and released. The driver of the school bus, Joseph Scroggins, 30, was taken to Mercy Hospital in Adal with injuries to his head, arm, and leg and has since been released.
The driver of the SUV, identified as John Tallbear, and a female passenger died at the crash scene from what authorities described as “massive injuries.” Mr. Tallbear was released from prison in June after being exonerated by DNA evidence. He spent 26 years behind bars before his release.
Video and pictures of the school bus crash show the charred frames of both vehicles. Investigators said that both occupants of the SUV were trapped inside the vehicle when a fire broke out.
“Parents, Students, Staff and Community Members, with a heavy heart and immeasurable sorrow, I want to discuss the tragedy which has deeply affected all of us,” Konawa Public School District Superintendent Cory Ellis said. “Sometime shortly after 7 p.m. our Jr. High Girls Softball team was traveling home on the activity bus on Highway 377 from their game in Okemah. Crossing the Little River bridge our bus was hit head on by a drunk driver.”
Parents, Students, Staff and Community Members, with a heavy heart and immeasurable sorrow, I want to discuss the…
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol would not confirm whether Mr. Tallbear was intoxicated at the time of the crash, but local police received multiple 911 calls describing his behavior behind the wheel, indicating he was intoxicated or otherwise impaired.