(Erik M. Lunsford ~ St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
The Missouri State Highway Patrol said 20-year-old Kaela Archambault died at the scene of the crash about 8:15 a.m. near Eureka, about 25 miles southwest of St. Louis.
The Eureka Fire Department's Scott Barthelmass said injuries to the bus driver and the students from Geggie Elementary School in the Rockwood School District were not severe. The students were taken to St. John's Mercy Medical Center for evaluation and later released.
Accident-reconstruction experts were on the scene trying to unravel how the accident happened, though it appears Achambault's Chevrolet Suburban crossed into the bus' path at a curve, Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Al Nothum said.
Dawne Johnson, who was waiting for the bus with her 8-year-old son, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she heard tires squealing and the crash, then saw the aftermath that included would-be rescuers hustling with any means they could find to put out the flames.
Johnson said some of the neighbors and motorists brought water to pour on the fire, and "a gentleman was running with a big water cooler."
"People were running around looking for anyone with a fire extinguisher," Johnson said. "Several guys were trying to pry open the driver door to the SUV. The whole front of his vehicle was totally smashed, the front of the bus was totally smashed."
"It's just a really dangerous curve," she told St. Louis' KTVI. "It doesn't surprise me that this happened."
The fatality was at least the third in Missouri this year involving a school bus.
In August, two school buses carrying marching band members from St. James slammed into a freeway wreck on Interstate 44, also near Eureka. The accident killed 15-year-old Jessica Brinker, a student on one of the buses, and 19-year-old Daniel Schatz, the driver of a pickup truck that was involved in the accident. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.
And on Monday, a school bus struck and killed a 16-year-old high school student as he crossed a street in St. Joseph in northwest Missouri. An investigation continues.