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School Bus Collides With Train Killing Two and Injuring FiveAired March 28, 2000 - 10:21 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: We want to return now to a developing story. It's been our top story for the past two hours: a tragic school bus accident early this morning between a school bus carrying seven young school children and a freight train on the Tennessee- Georgia border.
With us now, reporter Randy Golson, WCTV television.
Randy, I understand you are in Georgia, in Murray County. What update do you have for us at this time?
RANDY GOLSON, WCTV REPORTER: Well, Bill, what we can tell you is that two Murray County, Georgia elementary school children are dead, that after their bus collided with a CSX train southbound here between Tennessee and Georgia on the Georgia state line this morning about 6:30 or 7:00.
Now we have videotape that we can show you at this time now.
The crash, as I said, happened in Polk County, Tennessee, on Liberty Church Road sometime between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m. The impact was so severe, I'm told, that the passenger compartment was actually separated from the frame of the bus. Half of the bus is now in Polk County, Tennessee, the other half is in Murray County, Georgia.
As you said, there were seven people on board. I'm told that two of the children that were bound for a elementary school in Murray County were actually killed. Five people were taken to the hospital. And Sheriff Bill Davis says the crossing was marked, but they don't know how this impact could have occurred. They just are right now trying to figure out what the driver was doing in terms of trying to get across that crossing.
But there are no red lights, there are no flashing lights. There's nothing to warn of an oncoming train. At that time of the morning, the sun was coming up, so there was a little daylight. But it's going to be a long investigation before they can ascertain as to what happened.
Right now, we have emergency crews on the scene and law enforcement officials. We're told that it will be a long day before this scene is cleared.
This is Randy Golson reporting live from Murray County, Georgia -- back to you.
HEMMER: Randy, before I let you go -- and I don't want to take you into areas you may not be aware of -- but if that was not properly marked in that area, in that part of Georgia, is it required by state law to have flashing lights in that area where it occur instead?
GOLSON: We're not sure what the law designates regarding this particular crossing. It is a very rural area. What the Polk County sheriff did tell us, and that is a sheriff in Tennessee, he tells us that it is against the law for a bus to cross a railroad crossing without coming to a complete stop. However, without talking to the driver there is no way for us to know what the circumstances were. We are still looking for witnesses, as I'm sure local law enforcement are as well...
HEMMER: In the...
GOLSON: ... As soon as we get further details, we will bring those to you as they become available.
HEMMER: OK, Randy, two other areas I want to hit you on real quickly. We've been reporting for the past 90 minutes that this occurred after the bus turned around. Do you have any information on why the bus would turn around, or is that a requirement of the particular route on that bus route?
GOLSON: Well, we don't have any particular information as to why the bus turned around. I did ask the Polk County sheriff why was a Murray County, Georgia bus in Tennessee. He said that was just part of the way the route took him. He didn't actually have any students in that area, but apparently because of the way his route runs he was on that road.
HEMMER: Any history in that area of previous accidents, Randy?
GOLSON: Bill, at this time we haven't been able to figure out whether there have been any other accidents on this particular crossing.
HEMMER: And the driver of the bus said to be in her early 30s, taken to a hospital. Do you know if she's of condition to speak with investigators at this time?
GOLSON: What they told us when we originally arrived on the scene, Bill, is that she is in very bad condition. We're told that she was taken to Erlanger Hospital. We have Life Force helicopters that fly people that are in very traumatic injuries, and that's how most of the victims here were taken to the hospital in Chattanooga.
HEMMER: Well understood.
What about the engineer of the train? Any word on condition for that individual and whether or not he or she has been able to talk with authorities?
Well, as you can see the train is still behind me. It took them several hundred yards to stop. They were hauling automobiles. But there have been railroad officials here on the scene, but they haven't given us any word at all.
HEMMER: OK, Randy Golson with WTVC. Randy, thanks for you time and your information. We'll be back in touch as soon as we get more stuff. Randy Golson again. They're in Murray County, Georgia, just near the Tennessee border in northern Georgia.
Again, a tragic story this morning. It happened about 7:00 a.m. Eastern time, three hours ago. Two children killed after their school bus collided with a freight train on the border between the two states, five others critical condition at this time. More information throughout the morning as we get it.
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