Meigs County mayor, Tennessee congressman talk deadly school bus crash

Tennessee

MEIGS COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Meigs County community is still in shock after a student and bus driver were killed in a school bus crash Tuesday.

“We’re still in a state of shock,” said Meigs County Mayor Bill James. “But we’re a very close-knit community. Most everybody is kin to everybody in our county but you know we’re still working through this.”

He said being a former educator made the tragedy hit even harder.

“I’ve taught at the high school for 33 years so the kids are real close to me, you know. And we’ve never had an accident that I know of in our county like this or any bus driver had an accident. It’s really uh… when we lose children it’s absolutely a tragic situation,” said Mayor James.

According to THP, the crash happened on Highway 58 when the driver of a utility truck lost control and overcorrected, before getting back on the highway and skidding into the school bus’s path.

“Where this accident occurred, it’s a slight curve to the left. But it’s pretty much clear. The highway is very visible going through that area. I can’t imagine what happened to the driver of the truck that caused him to lose control but a tragic situation,” the mayor said.

We don’t know if this school bus had seatbelts but that’s what one Tennessee congressman wants to see on all school busses.

“We’ve been for seatbelts. There’ve been studies that say seatbelts save lives and there’ve been other studies that say that when the seats are at right angles at the bottom and the back that the seatbelt could cause a child to spring back and maybe hurt their neck in an accident,” said Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Memphis). “Studies go both ways but I think seatbelts would help and that’s why we’ve tried to get them on school busses.”

He said the crash in Meigs county was horrific.

“When you put your child in a school bus or know they’re coming home in a school bus, you’re putting them in somebody else’s hands and it’s awful for the parent and the family of the bus driver as well,” he said.

Congressman Cohen proposed the BUS Act of 2020 calling for all newly purchased school busses to be equipped with seatbelts. He said they got parts of the legislation got through the house in the Highway Safety Act but the Senate never took it up.

He added that while we don’t know if seatbelts would’ve helped in the Meigs County crash, he will continue pushing to have this safety measure on all school busses.

He said cost has been a factor in why this type of policy has failed to be instituted over the years.

“For one thing it’s an expense. The school bus operators don’t want to incur that expense. Sometimes it’s the schools that own the busses,” said Rep. Cohen. “The main thing is money. Safety should not be conditioned on the money. If the schools have to pay a little more for the busses or pay more for the installation of the seatbelts for the safety of the child, they should do that.”

This is a developing story. Stay with News 2 and WKRN.com for updates.

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