The city of Athens is reeling after a collision between a school bus and a train left one child dead and another hospitalized in Dallas in critical condition.
The school bus driver also was injured and taken to an area hospital.
The collision happened Friday afternoon before 5 p.m. at the railroad crossing at Cream Level Road, near the Athens Scuba Park. The train pushed the bus to the next crossing at Murchison Street.
Both the driver and a 13-year-old boy were ejected from the bus, according to officials. The boy’s body was found outside the bus at Cream Level Road.
A nine-year-old girl remained inside the bus. Athens Fire Chief Russell Marshall said “a considerable amount of force” was required to extricate her.
She was flown to Children’s Medical in Dallas, where she was listed in critical but stable condition.
“It’s a superintendent’s worst nightmare to lose a kid,” said Athens ISD Blake Styles. “Our hearts are broken for the families and everyone involved.”
Athens Mayor Monte Montgomery said his community is in shock, but is not going through the ordeal alone. He and his city have received an outpouring of love, support and prayers from across East Texas.
“It’s great, it’s great,” the mayor said of the support he has witnessed. “East Texas has always been close. Our communities are together. It’s a great feeling that other cities are reaching out.”
The community itself came together Friday night in a candlelight vigil service at First United Methodist Church in Athens.
U.S. Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Texas), whose district includes Athens, issued the following brief statement:
“Alexa and I mourn the loss of life today in Athens and are in prayer for all families involved. I am also grateful to our first responders who are doing all they can to care for those affected.”