CHANNELVIEW, Texas - On Tuesday night, dozens of Channelview community members attended a vigil to pray for the victims of a tragic bush crash involving Channelview High School band students.
The bus was heading back to Channelview around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday from a band competition at Disney World when authorities said it entered a median of the highway and plunged 50 feet into a ravine off Interstate 10.
The driver was identified as 65-year-old Harry Caligone, a 15-year driver with First Class Tours, the company that provided the bus.
Those injured were transported to various hospitals, including Sacred Heart Health System in Pensacola, Baptist Hospital. As of Tuesday afternoon, 15 of the victims were discharged from Sacred Heart, two remain in serious condition and three are in good condition.
There was a second bus carrying other students. It arrived safely back at Channelview High School Tuesday afternoon. Pastor Christopher Shackelford from Saint Andrew’s Catholic Church greeted the students.
“Everyone is still in shock,” Shackelford said. “The youth are still traumatized. I saw parents grabbing their kids and just holding and hugging them.”
According to Shackelford, many are still reeling with the fact their friends were on the bus that crashed, some saw it happen.
“Out of nowhere we just see the other bus going off of the road and it fall into a big hole,” said student Christopher Rodrigues.
Forty students and six staff members were on the chartered bus, including former student Josh Torres’ sister, Bianca.
“We were just feeling helpless,” Torres said. “I was afraid that my sister had died.”
She walked away with bump and bruises, however, the latest hospital information is that two are still in serious condition and three are listed in good condition.
Baldwin County Sheriff Huey "Hoss" Mack said it’s not immediately clear what caused the crash, but one student on board, Dewayne Benson, shared his memory of what happened.
“I woke up, and the band director, who was not driving, he was at the front, and he was screaming, ‘Harry, Harry, Harry!’ And then I felt bumps and I felt one huge bump and everything just went blank,” he said.
Several students and Pastor Shackelford named the band director as Aaron Allison and said he needed surgery for his injuries.
“Growing up in high school, he was like my second father,” said Nicolas Izaguirre, a Channelview band alumnus who attended Tuesday’s vigil. “I (texted and) told him that I was praying for him, that I was praying for the protection of his family."
District officials say the students and staff will start coming home via car or plane Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. On Monday, Channelview High Schools plans to have counselors available to students.