2 dead, including child, in crash involving Texas school bus that lacked seatbelts

Two people, including a child, were killed and at least 10 others were injured when a school bus without seatbelts and filled with pre-K students crashed in rural Texas on Friday, authorities said.

They were killed when the bus and a concrete truck collided along State Highway 21 about 50 miles east of Austin, said Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Deon Cockrell.

A boy on the bus was killed, and the other victim was in a Dodge Charger that had been following the bus when it was hit by an oncoming concrete truck, he said.

Four of those injured were taken to hospitals by helicopter and in critical condition, said Kevin Parker, a commander at Austin-Travis County EMS. Six others taken to hospitals by ground ambulance had potentially serious injuries, he said.

Officials said there were additional patients with minor injuries taken to hospitals, but they didn’t have an exact count. St. David’s South Austin Medical Center said it treated 11 patients, including two in fair condition who remained in the hospital Saturday, and one who was transferred to another facility.

The bus was carrying Tom Green Elementary pre-K students returning from a field trip to the Capital of Texas Zoo in Cedar Creek, about 22 miles southeast of Austin, the Hays Consolidated Independent School District has said.

It said 44 students and 11 adults were on the bus.

The school’s principal, Jennifer Hanna, said in a letter Saturday that three staff members and two students remained hospitalized.

Two staff members face “extensive” recovery, and one was expected to be released soon, Hanna said. The hospitalized students “appear to be doing well and remain primarily for observation prior to their anticipated releases in the near future,” she said.

The school, which is in the Austin suburb of Buda, will be closed on Monday, she said, but counseling would be available on campus through early evening as needed.

District Superintendent Eric Wright addressed the student’s death in a letter to family, students and staff Friday: “There are no words that can express my sorrow for the student’s family, the Tom Green Elementary School family, and our greater Hays CISD community.”

The district said in a statement that 2011 model bus involved in the crash was one of 40 in the district’s fleet of roughly 200 buses that lacked seatbelts, which is not uncommon for such vehicles.

School buses from model years 2018 and later must have seatbelts under state law. The statement said seatbelts were a likely topic for its purchasing oversight committee, which could weigh accelerating the acquisition of new buses.

“The district hopes that the DPS accident reconstruction investigation will be able to provide more information about whether a seatbelt may have made a difference for the student who died in the accident, but at this time we just don’t know that answer,” it said.

Cockrell said state traffic investigators were investigating the cause of the accident, including why the concrete truck appeared to veer into oncoming traffic. The bus rolled over, authorities said.

The Texas Department of Public Safety is leading the investigation.

On Saturday, Hanna said in her letter that the district was still trying to contact the families of nine students in order to update them with the latest news on the crash.

Gov. Greg Abbott said he and his wife, Cecilia Abbott, were saddened to hear about what happened, and he talked with the district’s superintendent “and offered the state’s full support as they help their community through this tragedy.”

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he’s praying for those who lost loved ones in the crash. “I am shocked and deeply saddened to hear about the school bus accident in Bastrop County today,” he said on social media platform X.

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