BARDWELL, Ky. (AP) — A small western Kentucky community struggled Tuesday to deal with a school bus crash that killed a 6-year-old boy and injured many others, with officials praising the first and second graders aboard for their discipline in the face of trauma.
Carlisle County ambulance service director Wayne Floyd described most of the almost 30 children on the bus as the "walking wounded — lumps, bumps, that kind of thing." The children were scared but followed directions as rescue workers and frantic parents rushed to the scene near Bardwell, Floyd said.
"They were little troopers," he said. "They paid attention. They did exactly what we told them to do."
Schools in Kentucky were closed Tuesday for Election Day, but counselors had already been brought to grief-stricken Carlisle Elementary School, where the victim, Logan Simpson of Kirbyton, was a student. School officials said the counselors will be available to teachers and students on Wednesday.
"This is a very, very tough subject for everybody here. Nobody imagines losing a child," said Whitney Mitchell, whose 7-year-old daughter Mykah had skipped the bus ride home.
The boy was a first grader known as "Little Bit" by his family, according to an obituary. His family said he was always smiling and enjoyed playing video games with his older brothers. He enjoyed sports, especially basketball and football, and was looking forward to deer hunting.
"Words cannot describe the grief felt by the people of Carlisle County over the tragic accident," county schools Superintendent Keith Shoulders said in a statement.
Shoulders said anyone who does not want to go to school Wednesday will be excused.
"We realize not every student or adult will be prepared to return to school," Shoulders said.
The bus, part of a caravan that had traveled the 20 miles to a recreation center in Paducah for the day, swerved off a rural, two-lane highway Monday afternoon and rolled over several times, ending up in a ravine. The children were treated to a day of swimming and games for reaching their reading goals.
Sixteen children taken to area hospitals had been released by Tuesday, but two adults aboard the bus remained hospitalized, said Kentucky State Police Trooper Dean Patterson. Shoulders said the two adults are expected to recover.
The bus driver, Anita Roach, was released from the hospital, and investigators planned to interview her, Patterson said. Investigators had interviewed one of the adults still hospitalized, he said. It was possible that investigators might try to gather information from some of the children, he said.
A police reconstruction team was at the scene Tuesday as part of the investigation.
Shoulders praised what he called the heroic efforts of teachers, staff and others to help evacuate the bus.
"The school was on it. They helped get those kids out," said Laura Pender, a county rescue worker and mother of a 7-year-old who was on the bus.
Pender said the staff and rescuers formed a chain of people about 20 to 30 feet long along the side of the road, passing children on backboards down the chain to where they could be examined..
"In just a matter of seconds, their whole life is upside down and it's changed," Carlisle County Sheriff Steve Perry said of the tragedy, which has hit the tight-knit community hard.
"I've had several adults talk to me and say, 'We went to bed and it was hard to sleep through the night, and we woke up and this is what we thought of was this bus accident,'" the sheriff said.
The funeral for Logan Simpson will be at 1 p.m. CDT Friday at Faith Missionary Baptist Church in Paducah.