ALMA, Ga. – A box truck rear-ended a school bus that had stopped Wednesday to unload students in rural southeast Georgia, leaving at least six students and the bus driver injured, police said. Authorities said the injured truck driver died later in a hospital.
The Georgia State Patrol said the school bus had stopped minutes after 3:30 p.m. on Georgia highway 4 in Bacon County when, a preliminary investigation showed, the Ryder truck struck the back of the bus. More than a dozen students were on the bus and 12 of them were taken to hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries, a police statement said. Two were airlifted to Savannah to be treated for broken bones.
The statement said the truck driver, Johnathon Grayer, 25, of Jacksonville, Florida, was taken to Bacon County Hospital, where he later died from his injuries. The State Patrol added that the bus driver, Jerry Sweat, also was injured and taken to the same hospital.
Authorities said three of the children were taken to a hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, and three others to Bacon County Hospital.
Updates on the conditions of the injured were not immediately available Wednesday night.
At least two helicopters were called to airlift some of the injured students, Bacon County Emergency Management Agency Director Danny Turner told WSAV-TV earlier. The initial report in the aftermath of the crash had cited Turner as saying at least eight students were believed injured in the crash in Alma. It was not immediately clear why state police later reported a lower injury total.
Local reports said the students aboard ranged from elementary to high school age, though police had no immediate details on the injured children.
The crash prompted a swift message from Georgia’s governor.
“Terrible news out of Alma," Gov. Brian Kemp tweeted Wednesday night after being informed of the crash. He said in his online post that his family was praying for the students and the family of the deceased driver.
A photograph published online by WSAV showed the yellow school bus with its back end and rear exit door caved in. The back bumper of the bus appeared badly mangled and the vehicle was upright, on grass.
A Georgia State Patrol team that specializes in reconstructing collisions is conducting an investigation, according to the statement emailed by public information officer Franka Young.