Houston bus driver thought she was going to die in wreck

Investigators work around a Houston school bus, left, after it drove off a highway overpass, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, in Houston, killing two students and seriously injuring three other people, police and school officials said. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

HOUSTON (AP/KXAN) — A Houston school bus driver says she thought she was going to die as the vehicle plunged off an overpass in a wreck that killed two students.

Louisa Pacheco was discharged Tuesday night from a Houston hospital just hours after the accident when the bus was hit by a car.

Pacheco told KHOU-TV that she was driving and heard something on the left side, but that she didn’t remember anything more.

The bus landed on its side, in pieces and with the roof smashed. A female student died at the scene and another died at a hospital.

Two other Houston Independent School District students were hospitalized with serious injuries. District officials didn’t announce update to their conditions early Wednesday.

Pacheco was treated for cuts and bruises.

Texas School Bus Seatbelt Program

The Texas School Bus Seatbelt Program seemed like a simple enough safety idea. The law came about in 2007 after a charter bus overturned on a rainy highway, killing two Beaumont high school students and severely injuring several of their teammates.

The goal was to require Texas school districts purchasing new school buses to outfit them with three-point belts (lap-shoulder belts), a direct result of the insistence and work of those girls’ families and the legislation’s sponsor, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. However, it was soon clear the program’s implementation was not going to be as easy as that group had hoped.

Because of the additional cost associated with the belts, the requirement only triggered if state funding was available for districts. Lawmakers originally appropriated the Texas Education Agency $10 million to reimburse schools. A handful of districts applied for the first round, but soon state agencies were ordered to cut five percent of their budgets.

As a result, the amount was reduced to $3.6 million. Lucio and others accused the TEA of singling out the seat belt program instead of making cuts to other programs. The TEA said it was better to make cuts to a program that had yet to launch fully.

In legislative sessions to follow, the program has failed to secure new funding. As a result, some districts have had to purchase new buses without the belts, while others have found a way to purchase buses with the belts without state funding.

KXAN investigated the problems with the program over three years. In our reports, the Beaumont families and even a surviving victim of the crash said they found frustration with TEA’s decision and hoped lawmakers would someday find a way to re-fund the program.


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