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story.lead_photo.caption Crews work to remove a bus from an area of the highway where it crashed early Monday. ( Staton Breidenthal)

One child was killed and several dozen others were injured early Monday when a bus carrying a youth football team ran off Interstate 30 in Arkansas and overturned, authorities said.

It happened before 2:45 a.m. near mile marker 111, which is west of Benton.

Arkansas State Police say the bus with adults and children on board was traveling from Texas to Memphis, Tenn. after an all-star team played in a championship game in Dallas.

The bus driver told investigators that she lost control of the vehicle before it rolled off the highway.

At least 45 people were said to be injured, and most of those were children, police said. They were taken to hospitals in Little Rock and Benton.

Various media outlets identified Kameron Johnson, 9, of Memphis as the child who died in the accident and JT Bragaw, a coach and director for the Tipton County Crush youth football team, confirmed the name.

Arkansas Children's Hospital received 26 patients from the Saline County bus crash. The injured were youth aged 9 to 13 years old.

Arkansas Children's Health System Surgeon in Chief and Trauma Medical Director Todd Maxson said the injuries they treated were primarily fractures and lacerations.

"We had significant fractures, skull fractures and some organ injuries," Maxson said. "We had a lots of lacerations and lots of broken bones."

Maxson said all patients in their care were in stable condition and 22 of the children had already been discharged to their families. Four of the victims have been admitted to the hospital.

Maxson said the hospital was prepared for the event.

"I knew we were ready," he said. "This is what my team does."

Rebecca Jones, a spokeswoman for Saline Memorial Hospital, said the medical facility treated 13 children, who had all been discharged by Monday afternoon.

Video from the scene showed the heavily damaged bus on its side in an embankment near an exit that has a sharp curve leaving the interstate.

The bus was carrying a football team from the Orange Mound Youth Association in Tennessee that had played in a tournament in Dallas over the weekend. The children were reported to be elementary-school age.

Coach speaks outside hospital

Bragaw said the child who died was a member of his team. Several other Tipton County Crush players were also on the bus.

Bragaw believes this accident will bring the Memphis football teams together.

"We are now a family," he said.

Bragaw said he had just gotten back to his home in Memphis when he learned of the crash.

"When I got the call I thought I was dreaming," Bragaw said outside of Arkansas Children's Hospital while wearing an Orange Mound Youth Association hoodie. "I was sick. It felt like a fantasy and to be honest it still does. I am still in a daze."

Gallery: I-30 bus crash

He said the Tipton County Crush joined 11 other Memphis based-teams to form an elite travel team through the Orange Mound Youth Association.

Around 250 kids from the Memphis area traveled to Dallas to play in the football tournament. Bragaw said the team had been in Texas since Friday.

"A lot of these kids never had the opportunity to leave Memphis, and they got to go all the way to Dallas," Bragaw said.

The coach said two buses, four vans and multiple vehicles were part of a caravan heading back to Memphis. He said the second bus made it back home without incident.

Bragaw called the accident horrific.

"You can imagine what happened when these kids were thrown around when their bus went flying at 50 mph into the forest," Bragaw said.

Emergency response

Brandon Futch, assistant fire chief with the Bryant Fire Department, said multiple fire departments were sent to the scene because it was considered a "potential mass casualty situation."

Bill Ford, chief of the Benton Fire Department, said his agency and the Turtle Creek Fire Department were among the first on scene.

He said their primary duty at that point was helping victims out of the crashed vehicle.

"The bus was on its side when we arrived, so we had to make entry through the roof and through exposed windows, but primarily through the roof," Ford said.

Ford said firefighters used cutters to tear open the bus roof before removing passengers through the hole.

"We of course try to comfort people when doing this, but our primary job is to get them out," Ford said.

Ford said he has never seen a crash like this before.

"I imagine the first unit on scene arrived and realized he needed a lot of resources," Ford said. "They radioed back to the county who put in the request for all units."

The bus is owned by Scott Shuttle Service of Somerville, Tennessee.

Read Tuesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Archived Comments

  • itryed
    December 3, 2018 at 6:59 a.m.

    Way too late( or early), that spot if excessive speed and traffic approaching from right is dangerous anytime, but if any " dozing" going on is asking for a problem. So sorry for loss . Melrose

  • Lifelonglearner
    December 3, 2018 at 7:10 a.m.

    Who decided there would not be funding for the team, driver(s?), and chaperones to spend the night in Dallas so they would be well rested for the drive back?

  • Justthefaqsmaam
    December 3, 2018 at 8:52 a.m.

    Yes this is a bad spot on I-30 and there has been several wrecks in that curve over the years going East or West bound. ArDOT did work in that area a few years back to attempt to help straighten that curve, but like ITRYED said if there is any inattention, you can loose it quickly. You don’t expect an Interstate to go into that sharp of a curve. Sorry for the injuries and loss of life.

  • ZeebronZ
    December 3, 2018 at 9:26 a.m.

    God help and heal the children. Very dangerous roads in Arkansas. Poorly banked and engineered, no guard rail.

  • Packman
    December 3, 2018 at 9:51 a.m.

    Keeping good thoughts for the crash victims and their families. Terrible, horrific, accident.

  • Retirednwsman
    December 3, 2018 at 10:15 a.m.

    That is a nasty curve even in the daylight and you paying attention. Come into it a little too fast, and you’re on the shoulder or in the ditch before you know it.

  • Knuckleball1
    December 3, 2018 at 11:30 a.m.

    These areas need to be well lighted at night and sorry to say many are not. Other States do a much better job of making sure there is enough light at the exits so that the roadway can be seen or in areas that the road has a dangerous curve.

  • Walkaway
    December 3, 2018 at 12:08 p.m.

    I find the lack of guard rails in this state horrific and grossly underutilized. What the heck is that about? How much could it possibly cost to install guard rails on turns like this and drop offs that would surly kill someone? Wake up Arkansas! My prayers go out to the families.

  • HarleyOwner
    December 3, 2018 at 1:01 p.m.

    Tragic. My guess is, @ that time of morning, she dozed off. I doubt that the driver had very little sleep during the trip.I'm sure the authorities will take a close look at her log book.

  • 0boxerssuddenlinknet
    December 3, 2018 at 1:57 p.m.

    my thoughts and prayers go out to the kids and the family of the deceased. on another note as you well know, road improvement cost money and everyone squeals when taxes are raised. that is how Bill clinton lost the governorship to Frank White.

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