Charter bus carrying youth team crashes; one child dead, 45 injured

BENTON, Ark. -- A charter bus carrying a youth football team from Tennessee crashed early Monday in central Arkansas, killing one child and injuring at least 45 other people, according to authorities.

Arkansas State Police said the bus overturned along Interstate 30 near Benton, about 25 miles southwest of Little Rock, as the bus carried the team from Texas to Memphis, Tennessee. Police said most of the injured were children who were taken to hospitals in Little Rock and Benton.

No information was immediately released about the severity of the injuries. Live video from the scene shows the heavily damaged bus on its side in an embankment near an exit that has a sharp curve leaving the interstate. Police said the bus driver was being questioned by troopers.

The football team was from the Orange Mound Youth Association in Tennessee and had played in a tournament in Dallas over the weekend, according to Memphis TV station WMC. The TV station reports the children are elementary-school age.

Orange Mound is a historically black neighborhood in southeast Memphis that rallies around its youth football teams, where kids train to be part of the highly competitive Melrose High School squad.

Damous Hailey was one of about a half-dozen adults on the bus. He told The Commercial Appeal newspaper that he was sitting directly behind the driver when the bus swerved then flipped "about 15 or 20 times,'' before stopping at the foot of a hill.

"When the bus started flipping, the kids were hollering, and we were trying to calm them down,'' he said in an interview from Saline Memorial Hospital, where he was taken to be treated for injuries to his right side and leg. "I was holding on, trying to make sure I didn't get thrown out.''

Hailey said the bus was carrying players from about 10 Orange Mound Youth Association football teams who played in all-star squads that competed in Texas.

Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock said it received 24 patients following the morning crash. The hospital said all the patients were in stable condition, though no additional information about the injuries has been released. The hospital said it has set up a family center so parents can reunite with their children.

"On behalf of all Memphians, our hearts and prayers go out to the Orange Mound children and their families involved in this morning's tragic bus accident in Arkansas,'' Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said in a statement.