Barbara Perenic/Columbus Dispatch/USA Today Network
Scene of fatal five-vehicle crash Tuesday morning on Interstate 70 near Columbus, Ohio.
Three teenage students on a bus heading to a band performance, two accompanying parents and a teacher in an SUV were killed Tuesday morning in a five-vehicle fire on Interstate 70 in central Ohio, police said. responsible.
The bus — carrying members of a high school band from the Tuscarawas Valley Local School District in northeast Ohio, according to school officials — and the SUV were part of the crash at 8 52 a.m. on I-70 in Etna, about 30 miles east of the school. students’ destination, Columbus, authorities said.
Details on the number of people injured varied. The Ohio State Highway Patrol said 18 people — including 15 students and the bus driver — were taken to the hospital. The school district said 20 of his students were hospitalized.
The deceased students were “bright, vibrant lights who lost their lives far too young.” Derek Varanskithe superintendent of the Tuscarawas Valley Local School District, told those gathered for a vigil Tuesday evening in Zoarville, Ohio.
“Today started out as an exciting day as our high school group traveled to Columbus to present at the Ohio School Boards Association conference – a once-in-a-lifetime event – and then it quickly turned into the “Darkest day, one of the darkest days. in the history of our district and the worst day of my life,” he said.
Three teenagers were killed on the bus: John W. Mosely, 18, of Mineral City, Ohio; Jeffery D. Worrell, 18, of Bolivar; and Katelyn N. Owens, 15, of Mineral City – and three people in another vehicle – Dave Kennat, 56, of Navarre; Kristy Gaynor, 39, of Zoar; and Shannon Wigfield, 45, of Bolivar, the Ohio State Highway Patrol said.
The adults who died were a teacher and two accompanying parents, Varansky said.
All six died instantly, the highway patrol said.
The accident, caused by a chain reaction, involved the bus, two utility vehicles and two passenger vehicles, the highway patrol said. In addition to those injured on the bus, the drivers of a commercial vehicle and a private vehicle were taken to hospital with injuries. The driver of the other SUV was treated at the scene, authorities said.
Jennifer Homendy, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, which will investigate the crash, said there is conflicting information about the sequence of events, but the coach and an SUV following it came upon a “line of waiting” for a previous vehicle. accident. A tractor-trailer was behind the SUV and two other vehicles involved were in front of the bus, Homendy said at a news conference in Columbus.
A tractor-trailer struck the bus, according to the highway patrol.
“Let me just say it’s our worst nightmare when we have a bus full of children involved in an accident, the worst nightmare families can endure,” Gov. Mike DeWine told reporters Tuesday morning.
Earlier, Veransky wrote on the district’s website that “a charter bus carrying Tusky Valley students and chaperones en route to the Ohio School Boards Association conference in Columbus was involved in a very serious accident.” .
“At this time, our goal is to connect with our Tusky Valley families who had loved ones on the bus and provide support to our entire school community,” he wrote. “Our Trojan family is strong, and it will take that strength and love to get through these difficult days ahead. »
DeWine said flags on government buildings in the capital and Tuscarawas County will fly at half-staff.
“This tragedy is really difficult to describe,” the governor said. “I would like to express my deepest sympathy on behalf of the people of the state of Ohio, to all the families, to all those who have been injured, to all those whose family members have passed away. It’s a tragedy that no one can imagine.”
Christine Varwig, president of the Ohio School Boards Association, posted on Facebook: “Words cannot express the deep sadness and grief we feel over the tragic loss of your students in the recent school bus accident. They were tragically taken far too soon.
“Our hearts ache from the unimaginable pain you must endure at this time. We share your grief and offer our deepest condolences during this incredibly difficult time.
Nearly two months ago, two longtime teachers were killed and several students injured when their charter bus fell into a 50-foot ravine on Interstate 84 in Orange County, New York, officials said.
Preliminary information suggests a defective front tire may have contributed to the September 21 crash.
The bus was carrying 40 students from Farmingdale High School on Long Island and four adults, New York State Police said. The students, who were part of the school marching band, were traveling to Pennsylvania for a band camp.
CNN’s David J. Lopez and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.