By Greg Ritchie
ELKHART – Students, parents and school staff got together for their annual Elkhart Independent School District (EISD) family school reunion event only days after a bus traveling to an Elk football game rolled over injuring several people on board.
As reported in the Messenger, the school bus was carrying Elk cheerleaders, EISD staff and others as they traveled to play Clifton last Friday, Oct. 28. The bus came down a hill into a curve, rolling over and landing in a ditch on Highway 294 near Lake View Methodist Conference Center. Messenger student journalist Ryleigh Glenn was aboard the bus, but sustained no injuries as she was wearing her seat belt at the time.
A total of 12 people were treated at local hospitals, with some being transported on to Tyler for more intense care. None of the injuries were life threatening, and all had been released from the hospital by Saturday. The driver of the bus was cited for driving at an unsafe speed. The wet conditions that contributed to the crash caused several local school districts to move this Friday night’s games to Thursday as rain is again in the forecast.
The conditions were so bad, one of the Anderson County Sherrif’s Office deputies who responded to the crash also lost control of her car and ended up going off the road. Sergeant A. Karriker was treated for a broken hand and a contusion.
EISD Superintendent Dr. Lamont Smith took time to speak with the Messenger after welcoming visitors to their family reunion event outside the EISD administration building.
Smith was not able to provide specific updates on those injured, but noted weather did play a part in the accident and was glad things were not worse.
“I can’t speak to the injuries of of our kids and staff but I can tell you that we are grateful they are as strong as they are. We look forward to them being able to recover,” Smith said.
Anderson County Precinct One Constable David Franklin also told the Messenger it was a miracle so few were injured. Roll-over accidents usually do not end well.
There were no classes scheduled for Monday, Oct. 31 but many students came out to support the school family. As Smith welcomed everyone, the lines were long to sign up for pumpkin contests, music played and the smell of burgers on the grill put everyone in a good mood.
Smith told the crowd, “I know there are things on your mind in relationship to the accident from the weekend. I want you to know that our administrative team as well as many parents and students, as well as you – have been praying for our kids and we anticipate that they are going to have recovery. We are going to continue to keep them in our prayers. We are so thankful things turned out as well as they did. Our kids will come back to school tomorrow. Our counseling team will be prepared to address whatever needs or desires that may be there. But today is a time to connect with one another and love on each other and I am glad we have this opportunity to do so.”
The annual event, postponed due to COVID, was timed perfectly to get the Elk spirit back into view after the accident. Smith noted the district is monitoring the situation with those injured in the accident and ready to welcome them back. The event was planned before the incident but all of the breaking bread and team building activities helped worried parents and students get their minds back moving forward.
“This is a great opportunity for us to be able to connect with one another, to talk about family, talk about friends, and even deepen our relationships with one another,” Smith concluded.
Greg Ritchie can be reached at email@example.com