KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A student aboard one of two Tennessee school buses involved in a deadly crash says it was a terrifying experience.
Chilhowee Intermediate School fifth grader Joy Reinmann told WBIR-TV (http://on.wbir.com/15ONCdA) the crash threw students out of their seats "and everyone was on the floor and screaming and crying ... I thought I was going to die."
The crash Tuesday afternoon in Knoxville killed two students and an adult and injured 27 others. Police said a preliminary investigation indicated one bus made a sharp left turn, crossed over a concrete median and hit the second bus, which was traveling in the opposite direction. The second bus flipped onto its side and slid.
The children killed were in third grade or below, Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch said. The adult who died was an aide.
Reinmann said she tried to offer some comfort to other students who were scared, confused and hurt.
"Everyone just started crying, so I went over there hugging Lexi, my friend," she said. "Her nose was bleeding and her lip, and oh my gosh, everyone was just crying. So I went and hugged everyone."
Although Joy ended up with a black eye, her mother said she knows it could have been much worse.
"I'm relieved, I'm so relieved. I couldn't imagine her not with me anymore," Joy's mother, Joline, said. "Take care of what you got... make the best of each day."
Three seriously injured people were taken to the University of Tennessee Medical Center and were in stable condition on Tuesday, Rausch said. Medical Center spokesman Jim Ragonese said a total of seven people were treated there, and three of them were discharged by Tuesday evening.
East Tennessee Children's Hospital spokeswoman Erica Estep said another 20 children were treated there for injuries that were not life-threatening.
Rausch said 18 of the 20 had been on a bus going home from Sunnyview Primary School, which serves kindergarten through second grade. He described their injuries as "bumps and scrapes." They were taken to the hospital on a city bus "to be checked out," he said.
The other bus involved in the crash was from Chilhowee Intermediate School, which serves third through fifth grade. Rausch said some children from that bus were taken by their families to the children's hospital.
Knox County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre fought back tears at a news conference. "This is an unspeakable tragedy," he said. "This is what we work every day to try to prevent."
Class was not being held at the two schools Wednesday, but counselors were being made available part of the day for students or families if needed, McIntyre said later in a statement.