TUSHKA, OK – Police say an accident Friday morning on US Highway 69 involving a bus left three people dead and two more injured.
Asst. Chief Charles Sanders said the female driver and two boys died when their SUV collided with the bus and flew off the roadway.
Two girls in the vehicle survived the crash, but were seriously hurt, Sanders said. All four kids were under the age of eight, he said.
"And the SUV was trying to keep from rear-ending a south-bound semi-truck, and that's why she lost control," he said.
Sanders said the two girls were flown by medical helicopter to the Atoka County Medical Center - but he doesn't know their conditions.
At least one of the kids is the driver's grandchild, Sanders said. No one in the SUV was wearing a seal belt, he said.
"I think one of them was ejected, I don't know which one," Sanders said.
No one in the bus was injured.
Bus passengers News 12 talked to off camera said they were traveling with a Knights of Columbus group from Gainesville, on the way to a retreat in Arkansas.
"It takes a lot out of you when you work something like this," Sanders said.
Robin Settlemire said she's known the family her entire life.
"I just feel sorry for the family," she said. "I can't imagine what they're going through."
Sanders said the accident is even personal for him.
"I've watched the mother and children go into the convenience stores when I work, and I just kinda watch them grow up as I go," he said. "They're local."
Settlemire said this tragedy will be difficult for the entire Tushka community.
"We lost a family today in that car wreck," she said. "It's just ... bad. Sad."
Sanders said as a matter of standard procedure they took a blood sample from the driver of the tour bus to check from substances.
But he said it appears to be the SUV driver's fault. He doesn't anticipate pressing charges against the bus driver.