Sirens sounded shortly after 3pm Saturday afternoon as numerous ambulances, rescue vehicles, fire trucks and patrol cars screamed north on Key Avenue. Observers along Key couldn’t help but notice the names on the sides of the siren sounders were those of neighboring towns and communities. “It must have been a big wreck!” were the common comments as the sirens sped north.
Soon the word came in. Lampasas Police, that seemed to get the first call on the accident at 3;18pm, reported what they knew. It was a school bus rollover on Hwy 281 N at the airport. The school bus, from Norman, Okla., had 27 passengers. There were multiple injuries.
Later, we learned that it was female 5th grade students, 24 of them, along with two teachers and the principal, who was driving the bus. The kids were 10 and 11 yr old girls and all were headed to Sea World, along with a second bus, following them but not involved in the accident, that contained 24 of the 5th grade boys.
The accident occurred as the bus hydroplaned in the rain and skidded off the road, rolling over and crashing into the Lampasas Municipal Airport fence. The 5th graders were all taken to area emergency rooms, along with the adults. Head injuries seemed to be involved at the scene, however many of the injuries were minor and the patients released. The Saturday evening word was that McLane Children’s Hospital was holding 5 or the injured girls and Baylor, Scott & White had 2 of the injured teachers.
The other bus, containing 24 boys, was forced to stay in their bus following the accident for some time. Sheriff Jess Ramos contacted Lampasas School Supt. Chane Rascoe to ask for help with a holding place for the boys. Arrangements were quickly made to bring them to the Middle School’s Bozarth Fowler Gym. There, local restaurants provided food and others pitched in to entertain the traumatized youngsters. Contacts were quickly set up with the Norman school officials and by 9:30 Saturday evening a charter bus picked up the kids and took them home. Dr. Rascoe said they were lucky in that a charter bus from Oklahoma had just delivered some passengers to Ft. Hood and the company heard about the accident. They contacted Norman’s Superintendent to offer free help in returning the kids.
Dr. Rascoe said the Norman Superintendent was here on Sunday to check on remaining students and teachers. As of that time, he related that there were still 3 girls and 2 teachers in Temple hospitals. The most severely injured girl, with head trauma, came off the ventilator on Sunday and should be released later this week if all goes well. Another had a fracture in her back but will be OK. One of the teachers had 6 fractured ribs and the other a fractured vertebrae that will require surgery this week.
By now it appears that most of the ill-fated travelers headed to Sea World are back home.
From what we saw, Lampasas First Responders and the help they sought and received from First Responders was amazing during this emergency situation. Dr. Rascoe also commented on the actions of Sheriff Jess Ramos in making quick and decisive action to take care of the boys in the following bus. He also noted the teachers and restaurants that came to feed or help out at the gym were impressive acts of volunteerism.
It’s interesting that, on Tuesday this week, we are having our annual celebration of National Night Out at the local HEB. It will not only be a fun evening in the parking lot with music and hot dogs and lots of exhibits…but an opportunity to look at the First Responders on hand with a little different light. Maybe even an opportunity to say “Thank You.”