(WJW) – The Tusky Valley Middle School band director posted a heartfelt message on his Facebook page to his school and community after six people were killed in Tuesday’s crash involving a charter bus.
In the caption of the Wednesday Facebook post, Tusky Valley Middle School Band Director Stephen Tripp said, “I am absolutely devastated at the senseless loss of life yesterday. These were students I have worked with every day for years. Kids that I have watched grow into young adults with their whole lives ahead of them. They were adult friends who were a constant presence around the program and who selflessly served our kids, receiving nothing in return except the satisfaction of watching the students be successful. Please lift up and support the families and friends of Wyatt, Katelyn, J.D., Dave, Shannon, and Kristy in whatever way you can.”
Officials say a charter bus carrying 57 people, including Tusky Valley band students, was rear-ended by a semi-truck on Interstate 70 in Etna Tuesday morning, killing three students, two chaperones and a high school teacher.
Artwork, posters and photos in honor of all of those who died or were injured in the crash were attached to the Facebook post as well.
“All of our kids need it, but please say a special prayer for Brynn Goedel who has a long road to physical recovery ahead,” Tripp said.
According to the Facebook post, Tripp was also in the crash but was largely uninjured and “in the absolute best position to help.”
“Every student behind me, beside me, and many in front of me required hospitalization. I was able to shout orders, move debris, and start helping kids get out immediately,” Tripp said. “I am thankful for our students doing their absolute best in a hopeless situation and literally fighting for their lives. For using every ounce of their strength just to get out amid flames and explosions. For supporting each other fully on what will surely be the worst day of their lives. I love you guys and I am so sorry this happened.”
Tripp continued on to express his gratitude for a passerby who was wearing a blue sweatshirt, and the others that helped drag students from the back of the bus.
“To those who performed CPR. To the lady in the dark SUV (now ID’d as Alaina Miller) who sat with and prayed over our most seriously injured and deceased so they wouldn’t be alone. I wish I knew your names and could thank you again publicly,” Tripp said. “I am thankful for the two men who stepped up to help finish pulling one of the last survivors out of the broken window at the back of the bus after I was pushed back by an explosion.
I am thankful for the first responder with a fire extinguisher who led one last desperate charge for the back of the bus as another and I followed behind. Find solace in the fact we did all we could and more than most would.
I am thankful for Merri who comforted our kids and Kim who sought help from onlookers and rode with the most severely injured to the hospital as their advocate and to communicate with parents.
I am thankful for our administrative team who reacted quickly, coming to the scene, dividing to cover hospitals, supporting our students, communicating with parents, and dealing with the ensuing chaos.
I am thankful for Etna Methodist Church opening their doors to us, and the dozens of helpers from the EMA, Red Cross, Salvation Army, and other organizations I didn’t even know existed. Also for the highway patrol, sheriff’s offices, fire departments, EMS, police, pastors, volunteers, and the Franklin County Therapy Dogs who responded.
I am thankful for my wife and mom picking up my children from daycare and staying strong so I could focus on the task at hand, and especially dad who came to the church and lent me an ear, support, and a ride home.
I am thankful for our students, staff, community, and local businesses who have gone above and beyond to support one another in this difficult time. It was truly overwhelming to embrace all of our kids today and just be with them. The hallways lined with artwork and notes are such a kind and uplifting gesture.
I am thankful for the hundreds of well wishes we have received from friends, colleagues, Alumni, bands and booster organizations around the state and across the nation offering to help in any way they can. We are still picking up the pieces, but will begin moving forward soon.”
Tripp finished his touching message by saying, “Thank you all. We need time, but we will get through this together. #wearetuskyvalley.”
Click here for information about the services for the victims of the crash.