MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Multiple teams traveling together to and from Texas for a youth football tournament when their charter bus crashed early Monday morning.
On board were dozens of children and five adults heading home to Memphis. The plan was to drive through the night.
The driver of the charter bus told Arkansas State Police investigators she lost control Monday morning at about 2 a.m. along Interstate 30.
“I was keeping an eye on her all the time, but you know she looked alright to me,” said Coach Damous Hailey. “But all the sudden, you know how your body is feeling. When that sleep come down, it comes down. I am not sure she fell asleep or what, but the bus wasn’t really driving that fast to me.”
With a little more than two hours from home, Coach Hailey remembers hearing the sound of the driver correcting the wheels.
“I was sitting in the very front seat, the bus driver was over there,” Coach Hailey said. “All I heard was a swerve then it started flipping. We went down one hill, over the service road, another hill.”
Saline Memorial Hospital was put on alert to receive all 45 crash victims. Though it’s a level three trauma center, it is the closest hospital to the crash site, about five miles away.
In total, only 13 victims were sent there, including Hailey.
“It happened so fast, I'm trying to make sure, I am trying to hold on to make sure I don't get thrown from the bus because I was sitting right by a pole,” Coach Hailey said.
Once the bus came to a rest, Coach Hailey began pulling kids off the bus.
“I was in pain, but I didn’t feel no pain because I had to try to get these kids off this bus,” Coach Hailey said. “Because I didn’t know if it was going to blow up or what, with all that flipping… I tried to get as many people as I could off that bus.”
Coach Hailey escaped the crash with a few bumps and bruises.
“I was just trying to find every kid I could and tried to get them off the bus if they was able to be moved,” Coach Hailey said. “Some of them was moving so I tried to get them first. Some was just laying there, couldn’t move and just tried to keep the calm.”
Doctors said many children suffered similar injuries, along with broken bones.
As for the driver, it’s unclear what caused her to lose control of the bus that killed 9-year-old Kameron Johnson.
“It could happen to anybody,” Coach Hailey said. “I don’t have no bad feeling toward her because she had a job to do but I can’t hold no grudge.”
Coach Hailey was discharged Monday morning.
WMC5 has learned there were seatbelts on the bus, but it’s unknown how many people on board were wearing them.