WILLIAMSPORT, Tenn. (WKRN) – One Hickman County High student is now in stable condition as investigators look for answers after a violent school bus crash Monday afternoon.
“I can’t imagine what the kids were going through,” said paramedic Beth Suggs who heard the accident from her home 100-yards away. “We could hear them screaming ‘somebody help us, somebody help us.’ ”
The wreck occurred just after 4 p.m. on Primm Springs Road at Dick Davis Road in Williamsport, about 55 miles southwest of Nashville.
Other witnesses said part of the bus appeared “airborne” before it finally stopped.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol said the bus driven by Hickman County Schools employee Jamie Sandy Christmas was traveling eastbound when it crossed the center line, exited the roadway, struck a fence and culvert, and then crossed the road again before stopping against some trees.
“It was just before a creek,” said Suggs. “I called 911, they knew me and was able to start triage for two half-sisters hurt in the accident.”
She said 17-year-old Hickman High student Demetria Barner had been asleep in the back of the bus at the time of the accident, but “was able to say her name” as she was being helped.
The teen was airlifted to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville in critical condition, before being upgraded to stable condition Tuesday morning.
Her half-sister Kneely Hogan, a 12-year-old Hickman Middle School student, was transported via ambulance to Vanderbilt Medical Center.
Hospital officials said the younger sister was discharged this morning at 5 a.m.
The driver was taken to Saint Thomas Hickman Hospital where she was treated and released late Monday night.
Investigators and Hickman County Schools Director Dr. Jerry Nash said a blood sample was taken from Christmas.
“Of course, we made sure that drug test was taken,” the schools director told News 2. “If everything was OK, we certainly want to clear the driver’s name, if it was a distraction we want to know about that, and that is being investigated right now.”
Nash called Christmas “a good bus driver” who has 15-years of experience driving students in Hickman County.
“There is nothing in her personnel files concerning any discipline, and in my 10 years I can’t remember talking to her about anything.” Dr. Nash told News 2.
The school’s director did acknowledge that there had been some complaints against Christmas for “minor things,” but he said nothing formal “that has been brought to his attention.”
An unidentified man who was working in the Hickman County bus garage said Christmas “is excellent bus driver, who cares about her kids, knows them all personally, and knows the majority of their parents.”
The Tennessee Highway Patrol is taking the lead in the accident investigation.
Sgt. Bill Miller told News 2 they’re looking at three factors that include “medication she may have been taking, and whether she was distracted or speeding at the time of the crash.”
He called it “early in the investigation,” but indicated the District Attorney is being consulted about the findings.