Three adults were killed when a tractor-trailer sideswiped a school bus and collided head-on with a second school bus Tuesday on a highway bridge in northern Mississippi, authorities said.
Seventeen students were taken to hospitals; none appeared to have life-threatening injuries, the Mississippi Highway Patrol said.
The accident happed about 2 p.m. on Mississippi Highway 8, a rural two-lane highway, about one mile west of Calhoun City.
According to troopers:
A semi-trailer driven by Gary T Bailey, 54, of Mantachie, was traveling east on the highway, when apparently it and a school bus, operated by Shane Burton, 40, of Ackerman, sideswiped each other. The semi-trailer and a second school bus, operated by Steven B. Moss, 37, of Ackerman, then collided head-on.
Both school buses were traveling west when the collision occurred. The buses were carrying seniors from Ackerman High School and were returning from a campus visit at the University of Mississippi.
Bailey, the driver of the semi-trailer, and Moss, driver of the second school bus, were fatally injured. Moss was a teacher and coach at Ackerman High School.
Phyllis Graham, 53, of Eupora, also a teacher from Ackerman High School, also died. She was a passenger in the bus operated by Moss.
Burton, driver of the first school bus, received minor injuries.
Mississippi Department of Public Safety spokesman Jon Kalahar said about 60 students were aboard the two buses.
Students were transported to area hospitals, authorities said. One was taken by helicopter to North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo.
Mike Dunagin, the fire chief of Calhoun City near the scene, told The Associated Press that one of the buses smashed up against the guard rail of a highway overpass bridge. Photographs showed the bus with its rear area dangling over the guard rail, its hood crumpled and sheered away on the driver's side.
"We're very fortunate the bus didn't go off the bridge," Dunagin said from the scene.
Calhoun County Sheriff Billy Gore told NBC News those riding in the first bus had no serious injuries.
Mike Thomas, a school board member in Mississippi's Choctaw County, described the students' injuries as non-life threatening.
Charlie Brown, a spokesman for the Calhoun City Fire Department, said authorities were arranging transport home for those who were shaken up but not injured.
"Most of them were in total shock. We had numerous (emergency medical) officials here. We had some pastors here that could help with counseling," Brown added.
The students were about 40 miles from home at the time.
Traffic came to a halt on the highway as crews worked for approximately six hours to clear the crash scene.
Tom Burnham, Mississippi's superintendent of education, said in a statement that the department was working with school districts and the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University to provide counselors for students and teachers.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of the three individuals," he said.