ETNA, Ohio (WOIO) – Northeast Ohio students were involved in a crash Tuesday morning on Interstate 70, leaving six people dead and 20 others injured, according to an emergency official.
Licking County Emergency Management Agency Director Sean Grady said the charter bus was transporting students from a school in eastern Ohio. There were a total of 55 people onboard, according to OSHP.
The crash involved five vehicles: the charter bus, two commercial vehicles and two passenger vehicles
Three of the six killed were passengers on the bus, who OSHP identified as John Mosely, 18, Mineral City, Jeffery Worrell, 18, Bolivar, and Katelyn Owens, 15, Mineral City.
The other three killed were from a car behind the bus, who OSHP identified as Dave Kennat, 56 (Tusky Valley Teacher), Navarre, Kristy Gaynor, 39, Zoar, and Shannon Wigfield (Language arts teacher Buckeye Career Center), 45, Bolivar.
A statement from the Tuscarawas Valley Local Schools Superintendent Derek Varansky confirmed 20 students were transported with injuries to seven local hospitals. Varansky wrote that 18 students had been released to parents and two remain hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.
One driver of the commercial vehicles as well as the driver of the other passenger vehicle were transported to area hospitals, OSHP said.
Grady said the semi rear-ended the Pioneer Trails bus shortly before 9 a.m. on I-70 West in Licking County, near the Smoke Road underpass.
OSHP said this led to a chain reaction crash, with at least three of the vehicles involved catching on fire as a result.
The Ohio Department of Transportation said the eastbound lanes of I-70 opened around 5 p.m. The westbound lanes remain closed.
Staff with the Tuscarawas Valley Local School District told 19 News the bus was occupied by band students. Superintendent Dr. Derek Varansky shared the following statement on their social media:
“I have devastating and heartbreaking news to report. Today, a charter bus carrying Tusky Valley students and chaperones on the way to the Ohio School Boards Association conference in Columbus was involved in a very serious accident. We understand from law enforcement that there may be multiple serious injuries and we are working to learn the details. We will share news with you as we are able, including our plans for upcoming school days and events. Right now, our focus is on getting in touch with our Tusky Valley families who had loved ones on the bus and providing support to our entire school community. Our Trojan family is strong, and it will take that strength and love to get throughout these coming challenging days.”
Pioneer Trails, the charter bus company carrying the students, released this statement:
“Pioneer Trails can confirm that there was an incident Tuesday morning with one of our buses. Pioneer is fully cooperating with the authorities as we work to find the cause of the accident. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those impacted by this accident. As this is an ongoing investigation, there will be no further comments.”
Troopers said emergency personnel has taken over a dozen victims to local hospitals.
Their conditions are not known at this time. The injured were being treated at seven hospitals.
A prayer vigil is happening at 7 p.m. Tuesday for the Tuscarawas County community. It is being held at the district’s football stadium.
The American Red Cross of Central and Southern Ohio said it fulfilled a request for more blood from one hospital in the area, sending 30 units to a hospital in the Mount Carmel Health System, said Marita Salkowski, regional communications director.
A center was set up at a United Methodist Church in Etna for bus passengers not in need of medical attention to go to and contact loved ones, she said.
The crash remains under investigation. Anyone who witnessed the crash is asked to contact the Ohio State Highway Patrol at (614) 466-2660.
This is a developing story. Return to 19 News for updates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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First appeared on www.cleveland19.com