A Lincoln County school bus and another vehicle were involved in a fiery crash at approximately 7AM on Monday, according to the Facebook page for the district. No students were on board at the time.
The crash happened at 6:41AM at the intersection of Huntsville Highway and Houk Road. The driver of the bus and the driver of the other vehicle were both taken to the hospital.
The school bus was attempting to make a left turn onto Houk Lane when an SUV heading Southbound on Highway 431 hit it near the front of the bus. The engine of the SUV caught fire and started to spread quickly. Video from a WAAY 31 viewer, Rick McGrath, shows the school bus engulfed in flames.
Ricky Stevenson was working at a nearby body shop when he heard the sirens. He came out of the building to find the SUV crashed into a pole and the school bus on it's side. When he saw the fire on the engine of the SUV and he tried to lend a hand.
"When we come out, it was already engulfed in flames. So wasn't nothing we could do about it," said Stevenson. "It was a horrific fire. It didn't take long for it to burn. It burned up in probably 10 minutes."
Brian Scott also heard the crash and came to see what happened. As a former state trooper himself, he said this is the first crash he's seen of this size. He said he's happy it wasn't as bad as it could've been.
"It's the biggest burning wreck I've saw. I saw several catch on fire. And I saw some serious accidents cause fatalities, but as far more worried about kids being on the bus," said Scott. "I'm just glad there were no children there and nobody was killed in the accident, because I first thought that's what had happened."
The SUV's driver was taken to Huntsville Hospital with serious injuries. The Lincoln County Schools Superintendent, Dr. Bill Heath, said that the transportation supervisor, Keith Gill, transported the bus driver by a personal vehicle to the Lincoln County Medical Center to be tested and evaluated. Heath said it's standard procedure when a bus driver is involved in an accident for them to have a drug test.
A Tennessee state trooper, Jon Judge, says he was on a routine patrol of Huntsville Highway 231 when he saw the school bus parked across the southbound lanes and the SUV against a pole. When he approached the car, he saw it was smoking and that the driver's legs were pinned by the dash.
He and the school bus driver tried to put out the flames, but their extinguishers ran out before the fire did. Judge rushed to the passenger side of the car and was able to pull the driver from the car moments before the flames reached the seat.
"You don't think about it, you just do it. You're training kicks in, your experience kicks in. You do what you have to do to take care of people first. Everything else we'll worry about later," Judge said.
The driver of the SUV is currently in stable condition at Huntsville Hospital. As for the driver of the school bus, he was issued two citations for the crash. Troopers determined he was at fault. School officials said the driver has worked for the Lincoln County Schools system since 1990 and this was his first accident.