Two female students are dead after a school bus was hit by another vehicle being driven by a district teacher and flipped off an overpass on a Houston freeway Tuesday morning.
One of the students, a 17-year-old, was pronounced dead at the scene. The second, a 14 year old, died at a hospital.
Two male students and the bus driver were injured and are hospitalized, according to the Houston Police Department.
District officials said the bus was carrying four students and was headed to Furr High School when the incident occurred about 7 a.m. All of the students attended Furr or REACH Charter High School, which is housed on Furr’s campus.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy and the loss of one of our students,” HISD Superintendent Terry Grier said in a statement. “I ask all of the HISD community to join me in praying for all of those involved.”
Victor Senties, a spokesman for the Houston Police Department, said that a second vehicle, a Buick LaSabre, was involved in the accident. According to Senties, the driver of the Buick said she thought another vehicle was drifting into her lane and hit the side of the bus when she swerved.
“The impact caused the school bus to veer to the right and strike the guardrail,” the Houston Police Department said in a statement later Tuesday.
HISD said Tuesday afternoon that the other vehicle involved in the crash was being driven by an HISD teacher.
“It was a bad accident,” Senties said during a news conference.
The driver of the Buick is being held for questioning and no charges have been filed.
The bus veered from the freeway while traveling east on the 610 Loop freeway and fell from the overpass onto Telephone Road. The guardrails above where the bus landed show signs of damage from the incident.
HISD said that the bus driver, Louisa Pacheco, has been with the school district for three years and has a clean driving record. The bus was purchased new in 2008 and underwent maintenance in June.
School buses are considered one of the safest methods of transportation for students, and fatalities are rare.
The most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that six school bus passengers and five bus drivers were killed in accidents in 2013. From 2000 to 2012, an average of four school-age children were killed in bus crashes each year, a number that is far lower than the 490 killed in passenger vehicle crashes during that same time period.
School district officials said the bus was equipped with seat belts and seven video cameras, all of which were in working order. It is unclear whether any of the students were wearing the seat belts.
This post has been updated.