18-Wheeler Crash in Howard County Involves Iraan-Sheffield ISD Bus With Cheerleaders

bus crash
Photo courtesy of News West 9

Update: 12/4 12:30 p.m.: Garlock has been downgraded from serious to satisfactory condition. Cheerleaders Katie Kent and Kiara Hodge are also in satisfactory condition.

 

Update: 12/3 8:14 p.m.: Garlock has been downgraded to serious but stable condition at UMC in Lubbock. One of the people to first come upon the scene of the crash said that Garlock was pinned in the bus for more than an hour and a half before being freed.

 

Update: 12/3 6:35 p.m.: Garlock remains in critical condition at UMC in Lubbock. Cheerleader Katie Kent, who sustained a separated vertebrae, will not require surgery. She and another cheerleader, Kiara Hodge, are in satisfactory condition. The third cheerleader that was transported to Lubbock, Lynda Martinez, was released from the UMC Saturday evening.

DPS are also searching for a key witness of the crash. The witness, who drove a black Dodge Charger,  is someone who stopped at the crash immediately after it happened, and DPS are searching for them to learn why a passenger vehicle slammed on it brakes in front of the semi-truck. “They may have seen what caused the car in front of the 18-wheeler to slam on its brakes,” DPS spokesperson Oscar Villareal said, “We don’t know why that car slammed on its brakes.” They are encouraged to contact DPS at (432) 498-2130 or email Villareal at Oscar.Villarreal@dps.texas.gov. *Update* That witness has been found. This witness may also be the person who braked in front of the semi, but news stories are conflicting.

Garlock, the driver of the bus was wearing a seat belt. Pope, the second adult in the bus was not wearing a seat belt. There were no other seat belts in the bus for the cheerleaders to wear. Eliphase, the truck driver, and his passenger were both wearing seat belts.

The bus that the cheerleaders and sponsors were in is currently impounded at Big Spring tow truck yard. The tow truck driver that responded to the scene described the crash: “It was very messy; it was pretty bad.”

 

Update: 12/3 6:25 p.m.: An account has been set up to benefit those who have been affected by the crash. The account information is listed as:
Pray for Iraan Benefit Fund – Fund 3230173
Brave National Bank
P.O. Box 577
Iraan, TX 79744
Fund#230173

 

Update 12/3 4:58 p.m.: Texas DPS has released a preliminary report on the cause of the crash. The semi truck was driven by Nijmibere Eliphase, 40, of Richardson, Texas. He was driving a 2007 Freightliner tractor towing a semi-trailer in the outside eastbound lane of I-20. He swerved his truck when he saw a black passenger car slam on its brakes. During this maneuver, the truck crossed the center median and entered the westbound lanes of I-20.

The DPS report also states that Garlock was the driver of the bus, not Pope. It goes on to state that “Likely because of the school van’s configuration, DPS reported that Pope was not wearing a seat belt.” The seat belt status of the student cheerleaders was listed as “n/a” on the DPS report.

The roadway was wet, and the speed limit at this section of I-20 is 75 miles per hour. The 9-1-1 call came in at 10:46 p.m. Friday night. The Iraan-Sheffield ISD bus was a 2015 Chevrolet van.

 

Update 12/3 1:31 p.m.: Christina Garlock, the second adult in the bus, has broken ankles, legs, ribs, a pelvis, and bone in her back. One cheerleader has fractures in her spine. Another cheerleader has a fractured skull and jaw. A third cheerleader was intubated. Those three cheerleaders and Garlock are in Lubbock at UMC. One cheerleader got stitches in her elbow and a sling for 10 days, as well as a broken nose. The other three cheerleaders have scrapes and bruises and were treated and released.

 

Update 12/3 10:44 a.m.: One of the adult sponsors, Liz Castaneda Pope, 52, has died. Pope’s sister, Christina Garlock, 48, who was driving the bus, is currently being treated at University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas. Pope and Garlock were the two adult sponsors on the bus. According to School Board President of Iraan-Sheffield ISD, Margaret G. Holmes, the Castaneda family is a large family in Iraan, and Pope and Garlock were particularly involved in the school district. Three of the cheerleaders were also taken to UMC in Lubbock. Two people have broken legs, and another has a broken leg and broken arm. One person had to be intubated in order to help her breath properly. The other three cheerleaders have been treated and released.

 

Iraan Cheerleaders
Photo from Iraan Homecoming 2012 Facebook Page

Original Post 12/3 9:23 a.m.: A crash late Friday night between an 18-wheeler and a short bus sent all eight bus passengers—two adult sponsors and six cheerleaders—to Big Spring’s Scenic Mountain Medical Center. Two are in critical condition, and two are in serious condition. The Iraan-Sheffield ISD bus was carrying cheerleaders home to Iraan, Texas, from a quarter-final playoff football game that took place in Colorado City, Texas. The crash happened in the westbound lanes of Interstate 20, between mile markers 174 and 176, just outside of Big Spring, Texas, in Howard County. Eight people were taken to Scenic Mountain Medical Center, and four of those people have been transferred to University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas. There was likely some moisture on the roadways and there may have been fog at the time of the crash.

Details regarding the cause of the crash are still sparse at this moment, but it appears that the 18-wheeler was travelling eastbound on Interstate 20 and crossed the center median, entering the westbound lanes of I-20 and eventually hitting the bus head-on. According to some reports, the driver of the semi-truck was trying to avoid a different crash when he swerved across the median.

Professional truck drivers are held to a higher standard of care than non-commercial drivers, and often times crashes like these are caused by driver fatigue or distraction (update: a preliminary DPS report states that the truck driver was swerving to avoid a passenger vehicle in front of it that slammed on it’s brakes). Furthermore, there are many more regulations and restrictions placed on professional drivers, like a nation-wide ban on texting and driving, as well as limit on the number of hours they can operate, and the conditions they can operate in.

Contact an experienced personal injury law firm if you’ve been injured by an 18-wheeler. They know the important steps to take to preserve evidence early on in the case, like sending a preservation of evidence letter and obtaining a download of the semi’s data recorder. Glasheen, Valles & Inderman represented four students involved in a semi-truck-school-bus wreck in 2010 near Big Lake, Texas. In that case, the truck driver fell asleep at the wheel and his truck rear ended a school bus. Our clients had multiple injuries including broken legs. We hired sleep deprivation experts and truck driving experts to show the nature and dangers of driving while fatigued. We located several former employees of the defendant who testified that driving fatigue was a regular problem that went unaddressed. With the help of our team, our clients received the best orthopedic medical care and therapy. We helped our clients structure the settlement to ensure that the children will have an opportunity to attend any college and helped them establish a secure lifetime income.

Glasheen, Valles & Inderman obtained a $6.28 Million jury verdict in October in a case involving a semi truck rear-ending a passenger vehicle causing permanent paralysis. Click here to learn more about commercial-vehicle cases, and click here to learn more about our results.

 

Video of the cheerleaders at Friday night’s game in Colorado City, Texas

 

The location of the crash: