Savannah, MO Truck Crashes School Bus, May 1984


St. Joseph, Mo. (AP) - Three teen-agers died and two others were critically injured Wednesday when a school bus making its first stop of the afternoon was sideswiped by a tractor-trailer rig hauling farm equipment.
More than two dozen other students and the bus driver were injured in the accident, in which the left corner and left side of the bus were torn out. The three students who died at the scene of the wreck were decapitated.
Missouri Highway Patrol Sgt. Robert Mudd identified the dead as PATRICK WAYNE, Huffman, 14; CHRISTOPHER LEE BYOUS, 13; and his sister, KIMBERLY LEE BYOUS, 16. All were of rural Helena.
"I feel we raised our two children to be responsible, good, Christian kids," said Nancy Byous, the mother of two of the victims. "Just remember, don't be mad at your children when they go out your door to board a bus."
SANDRA BARNETT, 14, and TAMMY LONG, 16, both of rural Helena, were taken to St. Joseph Hospital with massive head injuries, a hospital spokeswoman said. The hospital listed MISS BARNETT in critical but improving condition this morning. MISS LONG was reported in critical condition.
Several students were treated for cuts at the scene of the accident. The bus driver and several other students were treated at local hospitals and released, the patrol said.
The driver of the truck, John H. Dreier, 31, of rural Faucett, apparently was not injured, Mudd said. The officer said a decision on whether charges would be filed would be made by the county prosecutor.
The bus was carrying 29 students home from the junior home from the junior and senior high schools in Savannah, a town of about 3,300 residents north of St. Joseph in Andrew County.
Trooper Earl Weatherspoon said the accident occurred about 3:45 p.m. as the bus unloaded a passenger north of the Platte River Bridge along U.S. 169 a few miles east of Savannah. Red stop lights on the bus were flashing, he said.
The truck was traveling about 45 mph as it crossed the bridge, Weatherspoon said. The truck swerved to avoid the bus, but a corn planter about 15 feet wide on the truck's flat bed struck the left side of the bus.
The truck driver "didn't realize the bus was stopped and couldn't stop in time," the trooper said. "He turned the truck to the left, and the farm implement caught the left rear corner of the bus."
The mother of the student who was getting off the bus at the time of the accident said she heard a loud noise from where she stood in a nearby pasture.
Christine Bevirt said her 15-year-old daughter, Paula, had moved from the back of the bus to the front near the bus driver in order to step off the bus.
"She just started to say, 'Goodbye, see you all tomorrow' to her friends when it hit," Mrs. Bevirt said. "Kids she had just talked to were dead."
Mrs. Byous' husband, Bill, said Christopher's birthday was to be May 20, and Kimberly had just gotten her drivers license in March, and was looking forward to driving.
"What struck me was that they were a pair - always together and getting along with each other," Mr. Byous said. "They were more than brother and sister. They were like twins."
"You know, if one of them were to pass away it was probably meant to be that the other would go along. They went together."
Bill Stone, the transportation director for Davis Bus Service, said the 60-passenger school bus was making the first stop on its route when the accident occurred. The bus usually transports more than 30 students, he said, and sometimes carries as many as 50.
Davis Bus Service provides both drivers and buses to Savannah School District, Stone said. The bus driver, Jerry Walker, 39, of rural Barnard, is in his second year as a driver for the service, according to Stone.
"Anytime you have an accident like this it's tragic," Stone said. "You always hope you never have an accident like this and when you do, you regret it. You feel hurt, sorry and disgusted when it happens."
District schools will be closed today and Friday because of the deaths, said Assistant Superintendent Gary Howren.

Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune Missouri 1984-05-10