6 Students Killed in Oklahoma Crash Were in Car That Seats 4

Associated Press - March 23, 2022 12:47 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Six teenage girls on a high school lunch break were killed when their small car with only four seats collided with a large truck hauling rocks, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said Wednesday.

Only the 16-year-old car’s driver and front-seat passenger were wearing seat belts when the 2015 Chevrolet Spark collided with the truck Tuesday afternoon, according to the OHP.

The crash occurred in Tishomingo, a rural city of about 3,000 located about 100 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of Oklahoma City, the highway patrol said. Those killed included the 16-year-old driver, three 15-year-olds, and two 17-year-old passengers, the highway patrol said.

Tishomingo Public School Superintendent Bobby Waitman told The Associated Press that the six were on a break for lunch at the time of the crash, which occurred about a mile (1.6 kilometers) from Tishomingo High School.

Students in the district of about 850 students were in class Wednesday, Waitman said.

“Academics are secondary, frankly, at this point to the students knowing that they belong, that they have a safe place,” Waitman said.

“You’ll never fully understand, I don’t think we’ll ever fully understand a loss like this,” Waitman added.

The girls’ names weren’t released because they are juveniles.

The highway patrol identified the driver of the truck as Valendon Burton, 51, of Burneyville, Oklahoma. The report said Burton was not injured in the crash.

The crash report, released Wednesday morning, said the circumstances of the wreck remained under investigation. But OHP Trooper Shelby Humphrey said Tuesday night that the girls’ car was making a right turn when it collided with the truck, KXII-TV reported.

A National Transportation Safety Board team of investigators, including people specializing in highway factors, motor carrier operations and crash reconstruction, was going to the scene, according to NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson, as well as a liaison between investigators and surviving families.

Waitman said funeral services for the students were not yet scheduled and that the district would work with their families to potentially schedule a memorial service on campus.

The crash happened one week after nine people were killed — including six members of a New Mexico college’s golf team and their coach — in a crash in West Texas. In that crash, the National Transportation Safety Board determined that a 13-year-old boy was behind the wheel of a truck when it crossed the centerline and collided with a van carrying students from the University of the Southwest golf team.


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