What we know about the Ohio school bus crash that killed six

IIt should have been an exciting day for the 54 Tusky Valley High School students as they headed to a convention in Columbus, Ohio, for a performance by the school band.

But instead, it ended in tragedy when the chartered bus the team was traveling in collided with a semi-truck on Tuesday morning.

Six people died in the horror accident, including three teenagers and three adults. Another 20 students were injured.

A total of five cars were involved in the crash, which was described as a “mass casualty” incident.

The National Transportation Safety Board is now investigating exactly what happened, with investigators planning to visit the scene on Wednesday.

With the exact cause of the crash still unknown, many questions remain unanswered about what happened.

Here's what we know so far:

How did the crash turn out?

About 55 people, including 54 students and a driver, were on a charter bus heading west toward Columbus when the vehicle was involved in a “chain reaction collision” Tuesday morning, the Ohio Highway Patrol said.

A semi truck collided with the bus, rear-ending it before it burst into flames, authorities said.

The accident happened around 8.30 am. on Interstate 70 West near the Smoke Road underpass in Licking County, about 40 miles northeast of Columbus.

Signs in support of the Tusky Valley Schools community can be seen in front of the elementary school just before a community prayer vigil

(AP)

Three other vehicles were also involved in the accident.

Officials closed the freeway in both directions for most of the day while crews cleared the scene. Around 4.30 p.m. had reopened on the east side, the Ohio Department of Transportation (DOT) said.

The bus was transporting students to the Ohio School Boards Association convention in Columbus at the time of the crash, where the school's band was scheduled to perform.

The conference was canceled after news of the accident broke, a union spokesman said.

Who are the victims?

Three teenagers – Katelyn Owens, 15, Jeffery Worrell, 18, and John Mosely, 18 – were killed in the crash, as well as high school teacher Dave Kennat, 56, and accompanying parents Kristy Gaynor, 39, and Shannon Wigfield, 45. , who were traveling in a vehicle behind the bus.

All those killed were pronounced dead at the scene.

A further 20 students were taken to hospital following the crash, 18 of whom have now been released with non-life threatening injuries.

Two others are in hospital with serious but non-life threatening injuries.

The incident was described as a “mass casualty” incident. The Columbus Dispatch was reported, meaning 10 or more people were injured and needed emergency services to transport them to local facilities for treatment.

At least 34 students were taken to Etna United Methodist Church after the incident, where officials set up a reunification center for those who were not injured.

Don Hawkins, regional director of communications for the Red Cross, said the nonprofit fulfilled a request for 30 units of blood from Mount Carmel Health System, according to local reports.

Emergency responders are on the scene of a fatal crash in Ohio

(AP)

What caused the crash?

The exact cause of the bus crash remains unknown, but the National Transportation Safety Board said it is now investigating the incident and will visit the crash site on Wednesday.

A preliminary report is expected to be released in a few weeks, said Jennifer Homedi, NTSB chairwoman. A more thorough investigation into the crash will not be ready for another 12 to 18 months.

One line of inquiry will likely be the safety of the charter bus, which was owned by Pioneer Trails, a bus company operating in Millersburg.

The entity has a satisfactory safety rating, according to data from the US Department of Transportation.

Its vehicles have been involved in one other accident in the last 24 months. the collision resulted in one person being injured.

In a statement posted on Facebook, the business said it was working with authorities to determine the cause of the crash.

On average, four motorcycle passengers die in bus crashes each year in the U.S., according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Community reacts to ‘black day'

On Tuesday night, hundreds of community members gathered at the Tuscarawas Valley School District football field for a vigil to honor the six victims.

Speaking at the vigil, Dr. Derek Varanski, the school district's superintendent, described the crash as “devastating and heartbreaking,” calling it the “worst day of his life.”

“Right now, our focus is on reaching out to our Tusky Valley families who had loved ones on the bus and providing support to our entire school community,” said Dr. Varanski.

“Our Trojan family is strong and it will take that strength and love to get us through these difficult days ahead.”

Six candles were lit at the vigil, one for each victim

(WKNYC Channel 3)

Ohio's governor paid tribute to the victims. “Fran and I are praying for everyone involved in the bus crash east of Columbus today,” she said.

“It's our worst nightmare to have a bus full of kids involved in such a terrible accident and it's certainly the worst nightmare that families and schools can endure,” he told X.

A spokesman for Mr. DeWine confirmed that the governor had ordered all flags at the Ohio State Capitol and in Tuscarawas County to be flown at half-staff to honor the victims of the tragedy.

A GoFundMe has been set up to support the victims' families. As of Wednesday morning, it had reached nearly $4,000 of a $10,000 goal.

Dr. Varansky said the high school will remain open Wednesday, although it won't be a regular day.

Consultants will be on site to provide support. However, he emphasized that he would respect parents who decide to keep their children at home.

“Today started out as an exciting day,” he said, standing in front of a black table where six candles had been placed.

“And then it quickly turned into one of the darkest days in our region's history.”