GRAY SUMMIT, MO (KTVI-FOX2now.com)— A serious accident occurred on I-44 and Highway 100 near Gray Summit, Missouri at 10:30am Thursday. Two are confirmed dead, 19-year-old Daniel Schatz of Sullivan, MO and 15-year-old Jessica Brinker, from St. James, MO. Schatz was the driver of a GMC pick-up. Brinker was a passenger on a school bus.
The buses were full of students from John F. Hodge High School on their annual band trip to 6 Flags in Eureka, MO. As many as 50 students total were on the buses.
According to the Missouri Highway Patrol, at about 10:15am, in the Eastbound lanes of I-44, traffic was backed up in the right hand lane, due to highway construction in Pacific.
The highway patrol says a GMC pickup rear-ended a Volvo semi truck in the right lane. The driver of the first school bus was carrying the girls from the John. F. Hodges High School marching band. The driver saw a vehicle on the right shoulder and moved over to the left lane to avoid that car.
While the bus driver was checking her mirrors to make sure it was safe to return to the right lane, she did not see that the GMC pick-up had hit the semi truck. The first bus then hit the GMC pick-up and the semi truck. The second school bus, carrying the boys, then hit the back of the first bus.
The other fatality in the accident is a female student, that was riding in the first bus.
The speed limit on that stretch of highway is 70 miles an hour.
All lanes of eastbound I-44 were closed until around 4:00pm while the accident reconstruction team worked the accident scene and cleanup took place. Large cranes were called in to remove the buses from the accident scene.
After The Accident
News traveled fast from friends and students in the accident. School officials called the parents of students who were injured first. Because the field trip was headed to Six Flags, many of the students had not brought their cell phones because they planned on playing in the water park, but friends were talking on Facebook and Twitter soon after.
FOX 2's SkyFOX helicopter could see students sitting on the pavement after the accident, while others could be seen being placed on stretchers and put in ambulances.
The injured were taken to six area hospitals:
* 35 patients to Cardinal Glennon students with minor injuries
* 6 patients to St. John's Creve Coeur
* 6 patients to St. John's Washington
* 4 patients to St. Clare Fenton
* 2 patients to Missouri Baptist both have been released
* 1 patient to Children's Hospital a female in serious condition
This is not the first time this stretch of road has seen a fatal accident. Between 2000 and 2007, there were 19 crashes with 33 deaths along I-44 between I-270 and Grey Summit. Many of the accidents have occurred near the exit to Six Flags.
Criminal charges were filed in connection to an accident in July 2005 near Six Flags that killed five members of the same family.
Thomas Miskel, the driver of the dump truck that hit the minivan carrying that family, was charged with five counts of involuntary manslaughter.
Miskel, who was 43 when the crash happened, was driving a dump truck loaded with rock when it slammed into the back of the minivan, which was stopped in traffic near the Six Flags exit.
The family was on their way to the amusement park.
Angi Huckaba was driving the car. She was killed along with two of her children, Josh, 6, and Jacob, 9, her brother, Brett Willingham, 14, and her sister, Amy Willingham, 18.
Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch says there was no evidence of alcohol or drugs in Miskel, nor was there any evidence of excessive speed.
He says it was a clear day and Miskel simply was not paying attention, hitting the minivan at full speed of about 60 miles per hour.
12 other people were hurt in the crash.
Miskel's 15-year-old son was in the dump truck with him when the crash happened.