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6 dead, more injured in bus crash in Licking County

traffic camera image of smoke rising from a  highway surrounded by emergency vehicles.
Ohio Department of Transportation
A fiery crash involving a semi-truck closed Interstate 70 in Licking County in both directions.

At least six people are dead and more than a dozen injured after a semi-trailer collided with a charter bus carrying students and chaperones from Tuscarawas Valley schools Tuesday morning.

All six victims — three students, two parent chaperones, and one Tusky Valley teacher, according to the school district — were pronounced dead at the scene, an Ohio State Highway Patrol news release states.

The deceased were identified as John W. Mosley, 18, of Mineral City; Jeffery D. Worrell, 18, of Bolivar; Katelyn N. Owens, 15, of Mineral City; Dave Kennat, 56, of Navarre; Kristy Gaynor, 39, of Zoar, and Shannon Wigfield, 45, of Bolivar, according to the news release.

Twenty people were transported to local hospitals, and all but two had been treated and released as of Tuesday evening, according to Tuscarawas Valley District Superintendent Derek Varansky. He said two remained hospitalized in serious condition with non-life-threatening injuries.

The group was heading to the Ohio School Boards Association conference in Columbus when the incident occurred.

Tuesday morning the state patrol reported five vehicles were involved in the chain-reaction crash, including two commercial vehicles, two passenger vehicles, and a Pioneer Trails charter bus, which is a family-owned company out of Millersburg. Varansky said Tuesday night the adult victims were following the bus in a car.

Varansky posted this message on the district's website and social media:

"Dear Tusky Valley School Community,

"I have devastating and heartbreaking news to report.
Today, a charter bus carrying Tusky Valley students and chaperones on the way to the Ohio School Boards Association conference in Columbus was involved in a very serious accident.

"We understand from law enforcement that there may be multiple serious injuries and we are working to learn the details. We will share news with you as we are able, including our plans for upcoming school days and events.

"Right now, our focus is on getting in touch with our Tusky Valley families who had loved ones on the bus and providing support to our entire school community. Our Trojan family is strong, and it will take that strength and love to get throughout these coming challenging days.

Dr. Derek Varansky"

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine reports the Ohio State Highway Patrol is investigating.

"This is our worst nightmare, when we have a bus full of children involved in a crash. Certainly the worst nightmare that families can endure or a school can endure," DeWine said.

In a statement, Pioneer Trails said it is "fully cooperating with the authorities as we work to find the cause of the accident."

The incident occurred on Interstate 70 near State Route 310 in Etna, Ohio, in Licking County. The county's emergency management director, Sean Grady, reported 57 people were onboard the bus at the time of the crash just before 9 a.m. The highway closed in both directions for hours.

While parents and guardians of those involved in the crash headed to Licking County to pick them up, the district allowed students at Tuscarawas Valley Middle-High School to leave early on Tuesday.

"It's a very crushing feeling to know that there are going to be people without their family members tonight," said Jacob Cross, whose son was on the bus but OK. "It's a very crushing feeling to know that there are going to be people without their family members tonight."

"There's a lot of children who are just not willing to get back on another bus," Cross added, "and I don't blame them."

Another parent, Becky Ragon, picked up her seventh grade daughter and her friend.

"It's just been a hard day for the students, and a lot of them have had a hard time knowing what's going on and lots of crying," Ragon said. "Obviously everyone is very devastated and heartbroken."

Student Hailey Jackson, whose friend was in the accident, also left school early. She said she didn't know how they were doing. She found out about the accident because other students were texting kids who were on the bus.

The district is holding a prayer vigil at the stadium Tuesday at 7 p.m. "Pastors and community counselors will be available. Everyone is welcome," a text to district families said.

This article will be updated. Leigh Barr and Anna Huntsman with Ideastream Public Media contributed to this report.

Updated: November 14, 2023 at 11:13 PM EST
This story has been updated with additional facts and details, and to correct the spelling of Tuscarawas Valley Local Schools student John W. Mosley.
Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.