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Two school buses collide in Sullivan County

By Callan Gray, cgray@wcyb.com
Published On: Feb 20 2014 02:53:56 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 20 2014 09:55:03 PM CST
sullivan county bus accident 2-20-14 2
SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. -

We have new facts on an accident involving two school buses in Sullivan County on Thursday afternoon.

After talking to representatives with both Indian Path Medical Center and Holston Valley Medical Center, we now know there were 23 children injured in the crash.

We're told nine of the children were treated at Indian Path, while 14 were treated at Holston Valley.

"They were basically just muscle strains, soreness, minor abrasions, scratches, but no broken bones or internal injuries," said Dr. George Testerman, a trauma surgeon at Holston Valley.

Ambulances and EMS workers were called to Bloomingdale Rd. after a school bus rear-ended the bus in front of it, according to Sheriff's deputies.

Fifth grader J.D. Jenkins was about to get off his bus when it was hit.

"I heard was a boom and I fell to the ground," said Jenkins. "I'm so glad I was holding onto those seats. If not, I would've gone through the back of the windshield."

Jenkins told us he wasn't injured but, he said, the accident was scary.

"Everybody was all shocked," he said. "Everybody was crying."

Jenkins' neighbor, Kathleen Waycaster, told us she rushed out of her house as soon as she saw the flashing lights.

"I got out here as fast as I could and I saw the bus wreck, then I started looking for him," said Waycaster.

She told us she was relieved when she saw Jenkins wasn't injured.

"When you've got a child on a bus or something like that, it is scary," she said.

Sheriff's deputies told us there were about 70 elementary students on both buses. We're told they were traveling from Ketron Elementary.

Deputies told us the accident happened when one of the students pulled an emergency exit window lever, causing an alarm to go off. Deputies told us the alarm caused the driver to look behind him, that's when he rear-ended the bus in front of him.

The injured students were taken to local hospitals while the remaining students were put onto two addition buses the school district brought in.

"We just want to have them away from the crowd in a safe place," said Dr. Gene Johnson, the assistant superintendent. "It gives us an opportunity to keep a record of who's getting picked up and where they're going and if they're going with the folks they need to be going with."

Dr. Jubal Yennie, the director of schools, told us they had an emergency response plan in place, which helped notify parents and get the students to safety. The extra buses were part of that plan, he said.

"Those buses were brought in because, typically, we don't know if those buses that had the accident could drive again," Yennie said.

We talked to Yennie at Holston Valley Medical Center where he was checking up on his students. He told us administrators visited the students at both Indian Path and Holston Valley.

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UPDATE 5:00: We're told the accident may have been caused by a driver being distracted when a student at the back of the bus pulled the emergency exit lever.

Eight students are being treated at the Holston Valley Medical Center. We'll bring you more details on the other injured students as they're available.

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UPDATE 4:15: Sullivan County sheriff's deputies tell us one bus rear-ended another on Bloomingdale Pike in Sullivan County, Tennessee Thursday afternoon. 

A total of 70 children were on the buses.

17 of those children have minor injuries.

We have a crew at the scene and will bring you updated information as it's available.

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The Sullivan County Sheriff's Office said two school buses collided on Thursday afternoon around 3:30.

The accident happened on Bloomingdale Pike near Kingsport, according to deputies.

Investigators told News 5 WCYB children were on the buses. They did not know if anyone was hurt at that time.

News 5 has a crew on the way and will update this story.