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News Conference on Atlanta Bus Crash; Tornado Terror
Aired March 2, 2007 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
I am T.J. Holmes.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Betty Nguyen.
Tony and Heidi are off today.
HOLMES: And for the next three hours you're going to watch events come in to the NEWSROOM live on this Friday, March 2nd.
Here is what we have on the rundown.
NGUYEN: Fatal bridge plunge. A charter bus filled with college baseball players falls on to an Atlanta interstate.
HOLMES: Tornadoes strike a school and hospital in the Deep South. Two small towns dealing with disaster and heartbreak this morning.
NGUYEN: Also this -- sunglasses and smiles. Two alleged teen bank robbers due in court last hour, Barbie bandits, as they're being called. Well, they're busted, here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
NGUYEN: It's been a very busy morning. We're covering two major stories.
Our first unfolding this hour near downtown Atlanta. A bus carrying a college baseball team from Ohio plunged off of a bridge this morning. You're looking at live pictures of the accident scene.
Not only did it plunge off the bridge, but it crashed onto an interstate below. You see the bus right there. It has been uprighted. But, unfortunately, at least six people are dead.
There are many called the walking wounded, according to the Atlanta Police Department. Several serious injuries, at least two dozen. We don't know the extent of that, although many of them have been taken to Grady Memorial Hospital here in Atlanta.
And we are awaiting -- you see on the right-hand side of your screen -- a press conference to take place at any minute now as we learn more about the injured and those who are injured.
Just a little side note here. CNN's Sanjay Gupta is helping treat those injured at Grady Memorial hospital at this hour. So a lot is going on. Again, though, a bus accident near downtown Atlanta has killed at least six people from a baseball team that originated from Ohio, Bluffton University, to be exact. As soon as that press conference that you see on the right hand of your screen -- you see people walking up to that -- as soon as that starts, we'll bring it to you live.
HOLMES: And a bit more here on the players that were on board that bus. We have a team photo to show you here. They are, again, from Bluffton University. That is just south of Toledo, Ohio.
There's the pic of the team there. The team was on the way to Sarasota, Florida, for a tournament when the accident happened. They were scheduled to take part in a tournament there in Ft. Myers.
NGUYEN: Well, police and rescue teams still on the scene of that bus accident. Again, another live view of it.
Our crews are gathering information at the Atlanta hospitals. Atlanta Police Department expect to update us on the tragedy. And we do want to let you know again we are waiting on that press conference to take place at Grady Memorial Hospital, but we do have some animation for you that kind of sets the scene of exactly what happened today.
You see the arrow. That's where the bus was traveling and then plunged off of the bridge there. This is Interstate 75 near Atlanta. And both sides of the highway have been shut down because of this.
Again, six players killed in this accident, players from Bluffton University, near Toledo, Ohio. They were headed to Florida for a game. And you see what's left of that accident scene.
And as soon as we get more information, we of course will bring that to you. But one more time, just to help you understand exactly what happened -- and we're still trying to put the pieces together -- but there you go, the bus was coming off the interstate, going to the bridge, where it plunged off of that bridge, killing six people.
Let's take you now to Grady Memorial Hospital, where a news conference is under way at this hour.
All right. We're waiting for them to speak during this press conference. Don't have the exact names of the speakers just yet, but what we're hoping to hear in this news conference, just as soon as it does get under way, is a little bit more about the injured and the names of those who were on that bus to get a better idea. And also, how many have been injured in this.
Let's take a listen.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
DR. LEON HALEY, CHIEF OF E.R., GRADY HOSPITAL: ... chief of emergency medicine for the Grady Health System and also the deputy chief medical officer for Grady. This is Dr. Eric Ossman, who is the medical director of the Grady EMS Service.
We're going to provide you with an update of the status of this morning's bus accident. I will provide the hospital side of that equation, and Dr. Ossman will be able to answer some questions if it relates to things that happened on the scene.
At this particular point in time, we have 19 students here at Grady Memorial Hospital who are currently in the process of being evaluated and being seen by our emergency physicians and our trauma surgeons and our staff.
At this time, three of those students would be listed as critical. We have two of those who have gone into the operating room. They're out of the operating room at this point in time, their injuries are still being evaluated, and are still in the process of care.
We have another individual who is awaiting an ICU bed who is also being listed as critical, although he is awake and alert and talking to us.
The other 16 students are still in the process of being evaluated. I would say at this particular point in time, most of their injuries would be considered mild to moderate. I can't give you specifics at this stage of the equation but they're still in the process of getting their x-rays and completing their evaluations.
So at this point in time, all the students that we have that are downstairs are awake. They're alert, they're talking, they're very aware of the events of the day.
We're obviously providing them appropriate care from both a medical standpoint, a nursing standpoint, but obviously we have our social work staff and our case management staff engaged in the equation so that we can meet all their particular needs.
Dr. Ossman, do you have any comments from the scene?
DR. ERIC OSSMAN, GRADY HOSPITAL: I think Dr. Haley summed it up well. Grady EMS responded with five units and two supervisor units, in addition to the medical director. We worked with Atlanta Fire to get everyone off the scene.
As Dr. Haley said, we did transport 19 here to the health systems, and then there are 10 other patients at other area hospitals right now.
QUESTION: Sir, we noticed that some of those students were brought in by a MARTA bus. Can you explain why they were brought in that way, as opposed to in an ambulance?
OSSMAN: Right. Well, we were dealing with a mass casualty situation, and so we triaged the patients, we took the critical patients immediately to the hospital in the ambulances that were available. We established incident command and triaged the lower priority patients onto the MARTA bus, evaluated them further there, and then brought them down to the health system for their complete evaluation.
QUESTION: Dr. Haley, can you talk about some of the injuries? Do you have head injuries, anything definitive that you can tell us about the student injuries?
HALEY: At this point in time, like I said, all the students are awake. So we're dealing probably with trying to assess whether any of them have any broken bones.
So, a lot of them are going to need x-rays at this point in time. They -- like I said, they're all awake. so we have no major head injuries at this point in time of the 16. The ones that are in the operating room were actually up in the operating room before I arrived here, so I can't specifically say what all of their injuries are, but I will say that they are still critical at this stage in the equation.
QUESTION: Do you know if the driver of the bus was brought to the hospital? Is he here?
HALEY: I don't believe so. At this point in time, the 19 people that we have here are all students.
QUESTION: Dr. Haley, these students obviously know that other students didn't make it (INAUDIBLE). What is the emotional state of the 16 that are down there, realizing what has happened?
HALEY: Correct. Well, I would say, actually, all things considered, they're pretty calm. They're asking the appropriate questions and they're working with the physicians and the nursing staff to make sure we can identify all of their injuries.
They're very aware what's going on. They have asked a few questions about their parents. And obviously, we're trying to work with them to try and get in contact with their family members. But all things considered, I think they're actually pretty calm around the whole scenario.
QUESTION: Doctor, are there any counselors here who are helping the students?
QUESTION: Is the hospital doing anything to (INAUDIBLE)?
HALEY: What the hospital's responsibility is, really, to try and help them connect with their parents. We don't take the responsibility of helping the parents get here.
So in relationship to that, with the hospital staff, social work staff, and our counselors, we do have people that are available to counsel the students. At this time, it's also important for us to have people that are available to counsel the medical and nursing staff, too, because as you can imagine, many of them have children. And so this can be considered a traumatic event for them as well. So we do have our crisis intervention team that is available for both the students, as well as the staff, in case those scenarios arise.
QUESTION: Do you have an age range?
HALEY: These are all males at this point in time.
QUESTION: Do you have an age range?
HALEY: I don't have their age ranges.
QUESTION: From an EMS standpoint, talk about what you faced when you got to the scene and what you guys had to deal with, specifically in terms of just getting them out of the bus. Could you step to the microphone?
OSSMAN: Right. Well, I think when we arrived on scene, Atlanta Fire was in the process of extricating some of the patients from the bus that we were eventually transporting to the hospital. So, you know, when you're dealing with an event like this, you have an enormity of responsibilities to address.
You know, Atlanta Fire did an outstanding job of getting people out of the bus and into the triage area. And then from that point, it was really a matter of deciding who was critically injured, who was not, and then making a decision on what destination or hospital they would go to. And, you know, we certainly had plenty of resources out there today, but, you know, events like this don't come along often. So, you know, it really was very dramatic.
QUESTION: I know you guys train for this mass casualty of life. (INAUDIBLE) mass casualties?
OSSMAN: Yes, I think it went quite well. I mean, you know, Grady EMS and Atlanta Fire work cohesively as a team to sort these patients and get them quickly to the hospital. And that's -- and in an event like this, that's about all you can ask for, is that, you know, it functions as you train.
QUESTION: What was it that you didn't have at first that you needed to have brought in? In other words, when you first responded?
OSSMAN: Not that I'm aware of. We seemingly had adequate resources.
QUESTION: Dr. Haley, the fact that these are college-age men and athletes, are they better equipped physically to handle this kind of trauma, are you finding among the patients (INAUDIBLE)?
HALEY: Well, the fact that they are young men and athletes will certainly help them in the long run. So certainly, depending on what their injuries are, they're sort of better equipped at this point in time. They don't have any of the preexisting co-morbidities (ph). You know, things like high blood pressure and diabetes, that would certainly inhibit their ability to heal. So, from a starting point, they're all pretty good.
QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about the surgeries that took place?
HALEY: I don't know at this point in time. So they are still, like I said, just coming out of surgery. And hopefully, we'll be able to update you with more of that information in the future.
QUESTION: Was it head trauma?
HALEY: I don't know.
QUESTION: And for the students who are less critical, once they are released, where will they go? Will they stay here at the hospital until the parents come? Or what will happen?
HALEY: I think we're in the process of making that determination. Some of those may actually need to come in the hospital and be observed, some of those may be released. But obviously we're not going to obviously just turn them loose.
So we need to make sure we have the appropriate setup. We're going to work closely with the appropriate community resources, Atlanta Fire, Red Cross, obviously the university itself, and try and come up with the most coordinated plan. So I would say at least at this particular point in time, we're going to keep all the students here, make sure we've evaluated all of their injuries. Even if they're ready to go, we'll probably hold on to them until we can make sure we have got the most appropriate destination for them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
HALEY: Thank you.
NGUYEN: OK. You've been listening to Leon Haley, the chief of the emergency room, and also Eric Ossman, chief of medical services there at Grady Memorial Hospital.
We have learned a lot about those injured. Nineteen of them have been transported to Grady Memorial, three students in critical condition, two of them in the operating room at this hour, one in the intensive care unit. Sixteen sustained mild to moderate injuries, as these doctors described, and 10 other students at other area hospitals.
Again, six students were killed, at least six people were killed in this accident. I say people because we don't know the status of the bus driver at this point.
Let's go to the scene and CNN's Don Lemon with the latest on what is happening at this hour -- Don.
DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Betty. The interstate that it happened just behind me here, you can see Interstate 75 and Northside Drive here in Atlanta. Emergency workers are on the scene trying to clean it up -- clean up a little bit of that. Just a short while ago we were doing a live shot for "AMERICAN MORNING" and they were bringing some of the luggage off of the interstate here, off of the overpass.
Now, what I am told by the police officer is that this bus, this tour bus filled with these baseball players, were traveling southbound on I-75. He got -- he was in an HOV lane, got out of that lane to the exit ramp, and then once he got to the exit ramp where you're supposed to either turn right or left to that exit, he did not, and then went straight through the guardrail and then over the side of the overpass, and then back down onto the interstate. They don't think he landed on any other cars, but there are some other cars that sustained some damage that they're thinking may have been involved in all of this.
The injuries you reported -- you heard the press conference just a short while ago from Grady Memorial Hospital. Our own Sanjay Gupta called in to make sure that folks who may have had some head injuries were taken care of. The good news in all of this, listening to that press conference, is that the folks who are in serious condition don't appear to have any serious head injuries.
Below on the scene now, just a short while ago, they righted that bus that was turned over, flipped over on its side. And then that was the staging area, the triage area, where those six bodies, sadly, the people who died, were lined up side by side there.
This morning, after -- just moments after this horrific accident happened, an "Atlanta Journal-Constitution" reporter on his way to work who actually helped out on the scene, Mike Morris, joins me now to tell me what happened.
You were in traffic just behind this bus accident.
MIKE MORRIS, "ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION": I came over the hill on 75 and I could see the brake lights about a quarter mile in front of me. And traffic just came to a stop.
There were two tractor-trailers, maybe a dozen cars between where I stopped and the bus. And I called 911. And the operator asked me if there were any injuries. So I got out of the car and was headed up to try to find out if there were injuries. I thought at first it was tractor-trailer, but as I got close, I could see the emergency door on the roof of the bus, which was on its side, open.
LEMON: That hatch. You saw people getting out of the hatch.
MORRIS: That's where everyone was getting out of the bus that could get out at that point.
LEMON: And tell us what they were doing. You said that they were cold, they were bloody.
MORRIS: Right. Most of them had bloody faces, bloody arms. They were getting out. Some of them immediately would lie down on the ground. Others that were walking around, we tried to help them get over to the side of the road on to the little concrete wall and had them sit down. One guy, the first thing he said was, "I'm freezing. Can you get me a blanket?" So I went back to my car to try to find a blanket.
LEMON: Yes. And then how soon after did the ambulances...
MORRIS: Probably within three or four minutes the first police officers arrived, and then fire trucks starting arriving, ambulances. And they had asked all of us who had been helping out to move back and let them handle the people.
LEMON: There were reports at one point that the bus may have been teetering over the side of this. Did you -- did you hear about that?
MORRIS: Did not hear that and did not see it.
LEMON: Yes. But all those folks, the bus laying on the interstate, and all the people trying to get out as well this morning.
MORRIS: That was what I saw when I first got out of the car.
LEMON: Yes. Anything like it in your years -- what, 25 years...
MORRIS: Been there 28 years. Nothing that I've ever covered quite like this. I've covered some plane crashes where I was at a distance from the plane -- from the crashed plane, but nothing where I was right up, actually helping people get out of the vehicle like this.
LEMON: Yes. You're the early morning reporter?
MORRIS: Right. I go in early morning at 5:30, 6:00 and get things started
LEMON: OK. Thank you.
Mike Morris, from the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," helping some of the injured out here on the scene this morning, arriving -- one of the first to arrive.
He said when he got here, that emergency hatch that's on the top of the bus, he saw people getting out of that, sadly, bloodied. The folks who were not injured, at least were able to walk, got out of that hatch. And then the bus, again, on its side.
Just a short time ago, as I told you, they righted that bus, and they're hoping to have the southbound lanes of I-75 opened in just a few minutes. But if you have traveled in Atlanta or have lived in Atlanta or know anything about it, this I-75 is a major artery that feeds downtown and also the perimeter, the suburbs here to Atlanta. So traffic is backed up for miles.
They're going to try to get this open by noontime Eastern. But it's going to be quite a while before they get all that debris cleared off the overpass and off the intersection and the interstate here.
So Betty, I'm going to toss it back to you and we're going to get more information for you and have some for you later in the show.
NGUYEN: All right, Don. Thank you for that. Good information.
HOLMES: All right. And like he's explaining there, 75 is essential here in Atlanta. And this area we're talking about, Chad Myers is going to help us out on this.
We're trying to figure out -- everybody's been trying to figure out exactly how this could happen. And I guess it could be tricky if you're not familiar with that exit and what's happening.
So, by all means, walk us through how this could have possibly happened and possibly confused somebody who's not familiar with it.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Nine exits out of 10, if you're in the high occupancy vehicle, the HOV lane, you have to move over to the right to get off of the normal exit. Well, a couple of times as you drive down -- there's one all the way downtown and one here -- this is just north of downtown -- there's a split where you can actually go to the left and exit that HOV off to the left, and that's what this bus did.
It stayed on the exit ramp rather than down -- this is the HOV lane down here. The bus should have went under the bridge and continued to downtown, but it was up on the exit, probably unknowingly.
As it came up, it turned as it saw itself at the top of this bridge. It said there's no more road here, what am I going to do? The brakes were probably applied at this point.
The bus did turn this way. And all you saw -- maybe an arrow going that way -- but, in fact, the bus was turned this way and ended up right here, down, falling off the top of this bridge. And you can actually see where the fence line was here, the catch fence. And that didn't hold the bus, and it actually did fall down to the surface.
Talking to some of the police officers, that's a 25 to a 30-foot drop from the very top of this bridge down to the road surface down below. So that was quite a ride for some of those men and women that survived that.
HOLMES: And Chad, I mean plain as put, he is -- whoever the driver was is on the highway going -- what is that, the speed limit there is 55, 60, I believe.
MYERS: Yes, 55.
HOLMES: But still, people are going faster. He's going down the highway. He thinks he's still on the highway, then, oh, my goodness, there's no more highway. He might have still been going 55, 60, or whatever miles an hour. MYERS: No question. When he saw the stop sign that's right there, he probably realized, now I've done something wrong. But now you have no stopping distance at that point in time to get this thing stopped, or even, for that matter, in that kind of vehicle turn.
I've often wondered how many people have made the same problem.
Let's go back, Brandon (ph). Back this up. Because when you're in the HOV lane, you're thinking to yourself, stay left, stay left, stay left. And that's what you're doing. You're in the left-most lane.
And right here is where that left splits. That's the exit, and that's the real roadway. And he took the left of this exit.
Now, there's a dashed line that says don't do that unless you're trying to exit. But clearly, this guy -- we figured it out, from Bluffton, Ohio, to this exit was well over 550 miles at the speed limit, eight hours, 45 minutes travel time, if he had done this straight through. We don't know if there were two drivers, or whatever. But that's obviously nine hours worth of driving, and it was 5:00 in the morning, 5:30 in the morning, still very dark out there, easy to make that mistake.
HOLMES: Oh, man. That just gives you chills to have it broken down like that.
Chad, thank you so much for walking us through that.
MYERS: I can imagine that cars have done it. I bet cars have done it. But the good news, the cars had enough breaking distance to get it stopped. And they thought, well, that wasn't right. But this bus had no chance.
HOLMES: Chad, thank you so much for breaking that down for us.
NGUYEN: It makes a lot of sense. I mean, I have actually done it myself, and then you realize, wait a second, I'm not on the freeway anymore. But fortunately, I had enough time to break.
It's just an unfortunate situation. We're going to get more on this story, though.
Police and rescue teams still on the scene of that bus accident. Our crews gathering info now at Atlanta hospitals. And the Atlanta Police Department expected to update us on that tragedy.
Complete CNN coverage, that's coming up right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT: I'm Susan Roesgen, in Enterprise, Alabama, at the high school where eight students were killed in the tornado.
We'll have the latest information coming up here in the CNN NEWSROOM. JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jeanne Meserve in Americus, Georgia, where a hospital took a direct hit. Miraculously, all the patients got out safely.
That story coming up, too, on the NEWSROOM.
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kathleen Koch at the Pentagon. A top commander is fired over poor outpatient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. I'll have the full story ahead in the NEWSROOM.
NGUYEN: We do have a lot of breaking news today, including the bus accident near Atlanta, Georgia.
Let's take you to some live pictures of what is left of that bus. In fact, this is taped. You'll see it in a minute, that bus being uprighted there. And we understand at least six people have been killed in this accident.
There were about 35 people onboard, mainly students from a baseball team at Bluffton, University, which is south of Toledo, Ohio. And, in fact, at 11:00 a.m. today, there's going to be a news conference at that university, and we'll try to take that live when it does happen.
Let me tell you a little bit about the injuries so far.
Nineteen students have been taken to Grady Memorial Hospital here in Atlanta. Three of them in critical condition, two of those three in the operating room at this hour, one in intensive care. Sixteen have mild to moderate injuries.
And another 10 have been taken to other area hospitals. We do not know their conditions at this hour.
But again, six people have been killed in that accident. Thirty- five people were on this bus. A bus that was traveling along Interstate 75 here in Atlanta, around the 5:00 a.m. hour Eastern Time.
We're going to give you kind of a look at the freeway so we can kind of understand what happened.
They were in the HOV lane. That HOV lane then jetted off to the left and ended up on a bridge. Perhaps the bus driver did not realize that until too late and did not have enough time to stop before he plunged off of that interstate. Again, killing six people.
And we are going to be hearing as well a little bit later from the Atlanta Police Department. And when that happens live, we will take that to you.
But just a tragic scene here in Atlanta that's not only causing traffic backups, but a lot of pain for those families involved. And as soon as we get more information on it, we'll bring it straight to you.
HOLMES: And, of course, the other major story we're covering today, the death, devastation and absolute grief, as the toll in lives and property continues to rise this morning from powerful storms and tornadoes that roared across Georgia and Alabama.
Authorities now say at least 19 people were killed in the two states, nine deaths reported in southern Georgia. The storm struck overnight in Baker, Sumter and Taylor counties.
Meanwhile, in Alabama, authorities say the death toll has risen to 10. Eight of the victims were teenagers when a tornado struck the high school in the town of Enterprise.
We do have extensive coverage of the storms and the aftermath.
CNN's Jeanne Meserve is in Americus, Georgia, for us. Susan Roesgen in Enterprise, Alabama. Chad Myers, of course, at his post in the CNN storm center with the latest on the severe weather.
Well, of course the storms have ripped through and left a path of destruction in three counties in Georgia, as we were just saying. An apparent twister slammed in to the main hospital in Sumter County, in the town of Americus, and that's where our Jeanne Meserve is.
And Jeanne, we hear about a hospital being hit and then a high school. These are places we think of safe places so often. So update us about what happened there at the hospital.
MESERVE: Well, they certainly weren't safe last night.
Behind me an optometrist office. You can see the roof is gone here. That business certainly isn't open today. But if you think that looks bad, look behind here.
That pile of rubble, that used to be an A frame, we're told. At least it was until about 9:15 last night. Now it looks like the big, bad wolf came through. In fact, we know it was the big, bad tornado.
The real story, though, as you mentioned, is across the street. It is the Sumter Regional Hospital. You can probably see from here some of the damage, those windows blown out. A lot of structural damage here.
Fifty-five people inside had to be evacuated to other hospitals. And that happened safely. But, you know, this is such a localized phenomenon, that we found a nurse in the parking lot today who had come to report to work and was dumbfounded when she saw what this hospital looked like.
Here's a little bit of what Dana Rylander...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA RYLANDER, NURSE: Not only is it a place for people to get healthcare, it's our jobs. A lot of people's jobs. It's gone. Just gone. Just -- in what, five minutes, it's gone?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MESERVE: They're still doing some recovery here today. We met some nurses up in the parking lot who were going back into that building today to try to retrieve records. They are quite afraid that those might have been destroyed as this twister came through.
The damage up on the parking lot up there quite amazing. But already, crews are working to put the town to right (ph). We've seen some bulldozers up there moving around some of the heavy trees, there are a lot of power trucks coming through.
As you might be able to see right across the street there, power lines are down, much of the city still without power. They have got a lot of recovery here to do, but they're trying to get it under way -- T.J.
HOLMES: Absolutely. Jeanne Meserve for us in Americus, which is a mess this morning.
Jeanne, thank you so much.
NGUYEN: Well, it's not the only place that's a mess.
In Alabama, search crews worked through the night. They scoured the rubble of Enterprise High School for any victims that may have been trapped inside that rubble that you see here.
CNN's Susan Roesgen is in the southern Alabama town, and she joins us with the latest there.
Any survivors to be found today?
ROESGEN: Betty, no new reports of any survivors, no new reports of anybody missing. I just spoke to the Alabama emergency management chief, who told me that still only nine people confirmed dead. Eight students in the high school here behind me, and one person, an adult who was on the street just a couple blocks away.
Now I talked to some of the students here this morning to give you a better idea of what it was like when the tornado came through. I'm going to just sort of draw you a map here.
The school is built like a square within a square. So what you had at about 11:00 yesterday morning, the students were told to line the hallways, both the exterior hallway and the interior hallway.
They were told to go with their backs against the hallways, to get down in a crouching position with their knees up to their chins, put their heads underneath their hands like this and get ready. But that was at 11:00 in the morning. The tornado did not strike until 1:00.
Some of the students told me that they were joking around, they had a lot of tornado drills here. They didn't expect this one to be a real one.
The students who were in the interior part, the interior square of this high school, those are the eight students who were killed. They were all together along one hallway that simply collapsed.
Now, the Alabama Emergency Management chief told me that normally that interior hallway would be the safest place to be, because it's right in the center of the school. But when the school took a direct hit, really no part of the school was safe.
The Emergency Management Chief, also told me, Betty, that they're doing a third search now this morning. They have brought in heavy equipment. They don't expect to find any more survivors. They don't expect to find anymore bodies. But they brought in some more heavy equipment and some search dogs, because they want to lift the chunks of the concrete roof of this high school off the floor. And just make sure that nobody else is still trapped inside.
The governor, here, is supposed to come and take a look at this school at about 10:00 local time, this morning, in about an hour or so. Then also the National Weather Service will be doing a both and aerial and ground survey of this area. Apparently, the tornado was on an 8-mile path. Now, the National Weather Service wants to confirm whether or not it was just one tornado, or possibly others, and also they want to give it a Fujita Scale number, and find out just how powerful the tornado was in Enterprise -- Betty.
NGUYEN: All right, Susan, thank you for that.
We want to get more on this from CNN's Chad Myers.
And Chad, Susan mentioned something that really made a lot of sense yet it didn't, because those students were on that interior wall. And we're always told to go to the inside of a building. Do you think it was perhaps because of the roof collapse and not the fact that they were on the interior wall?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I don't know how they died. You know, I can't make that judgment from here. There could have been debris that flew down that hallway, it could have turned into a wind tunnel. Without being on the scene and waiting for experts, I don't have that information.
NGUYEN: It is puzzling to you, doesn't it seem?
MYERS: No, every structure will have a weak spot or two, and if something obviously did fall down. Is there no such thing as tornado proof shelter, unless it's completely underground. That would be something with a strong metal lid, or concrete lid, that would not be sucked up by the tornado.
I mean, this was a very strong -- this was 180-mile per hour tornado. That's my guesstimate from being 300 miles away from it, and looking at pictures. Those guys will be on the ground later today seeing. But when you pick up a car and throw it that far, or pickup trucks or buses, or whatever that thing was moving around, you have to be over 150 for that to happen.
And so they'll check the Fujita Scale. There was a number of tornadoes yesterday. There was actually three tornado warnings for that county. There's Enterprise right there. This backs you up about 20 hours. There goes one storm. There goes another storm. That third one is this one that actually touched down, and it did also touch down back into Dale County, south of Ozark, as well.
We have an eye I-Report, from a picture here, that was taken from a front porch as it looked over the other houses, so you're actually seeing another house in the way. This is in the distance. But if you look on the left side of that home, there's a black line and a then white line, white side/black side. That black side, I believe, would be the left side of the funnel. Can't really see the right side of the funnel, because the right front of the home, or the town home, gets in the way.
But you can begin to see, if you use your imagination, that this wedge was all the way to the ground. For that to have that type of distance across, I don't know the distance between where the camera was shot, and where the tornado was. But this looks like that probably was a half mile wide at the base of the cloud. A little thinner as you get down there to the bottom of the cloud and right down at the surface. But a shot here by Marti Achman, from Enterprise, Alabama.
Boy, that's a dangerous looking cell there. This is what happened, as the storm went by, it was the third of three cells, one, two, three. They all were spinning, but that one there, the last one, was the one that did the damage.
Now, the storm that transformed itself into Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York state snowmaker, up into Ontario and Quebec, snowmaker, big time snowmaker here. And then a wind maker for Colorado all the way back into Nebraska, as far east as Chicago, picking up snow and Detroit picking up snow, as well.
Farther to the south there's still a slight chance of some severe weather here, right across the eastern sections of North Carolina; from the east -- just very, very eastern part of the Delmarva for now. But other than that, the rest of the storm has wound itself out. It is done. Maybe a few showers across Florida, you can see the line kind of -- just one, two, three, four cells still hanging in there, the rest of it just completely dying out.
There is no more energy for this storm. It has used itself up. It is now just a storm that will run offshore, and be done with any more damage today, thank goodness
NGUYEN: Thank goodness.
HOLMES: They were inside Enterprise High School when the tornado struck, they were injured, but still able to help others. We'll talk with two students who are brothers. Also going to talk to their mother, who was also inside that school, surviving the fury of the storm that's in the CNN NEWSROOM. NGUYEN: We're also gong to take you live to Grady Memorial Hospital, here in Atlanta, where some of the victims, from that bus accident that you see right there. The bus on its side after it pretty much just rolled off of a bridge, early this morning, killing at least six people. CNN's Drew Griffin is at the hospital. We'll be talking to him live in a short while.
You're watching the CNN NEWSROOM
HOLMES: We are continuing to cover this major news story out of Atlanta today, where a charter bus has gone off an overpass, on to a major artery of Interstate 75 that cuts through the heart of downtown Atlanta.
You're seeing live pictures right there. They're trying to get that bus out of the road. This highway has been shut down for several hours.
On that bus was a team, a college baseball team out of Ohio, that was making its way through Atlanta, heading to Florida for a tournament. Dove off that overpass, you are seeing there, to your left, fell onto the highway. At least six people that were on that charter bus, confirmed dead, another 29 injured, a few critically.
We're keeping an eye on this story, trying to get more details. We have a video for you here of what we saw a little earlier from the scene. This appears to be that overpass. Actually, what happened, we believe, or what seems to be the case, is that an HOV lane that exited, off that highway. If you're not familiar with it, it can confuse you, and think you're still on the highway. And you don't know until the last minute.
You see that stop up there, for just a second, to the left, it appears, where the bus driver finally realized he was no longer on the highway. Tried to make a stop, tried to make a turn, but just essentially plunged, and when -- almost launched off that overpass, there and on to the --
You can see a better idea of the scene there, but here, the animation gives a better idea what happened. If you're not familiar, certainly people here have driven through this area, know it. But the HOV lane exits on the left, as you see, right up the middle there. You're in the HOV lane, you think you're still on the highway. Through that arrow right there and that's what happened -- it appears, at least, with this bus driver, not familiar with this area, not familiar with this highway; and thought he was still on the highway and it actually was an exit, and went right off the edge of that overpass.
There again, the scene. They have been able to get that bus upright, it was on it's side for several hours. Got it up, trying to get it off the highway. But this is a major artery. Certainly, it is a traffic nightmare as it's been this morning in Atlanta.
A much bigger nightmare for those families, for that college, for that team going through this tragedy. Many injured have been taken to Grady Memorial Hospital here in Atlanta. At least 19, I believe it is, have been taken there to be treated, three of them in critical condition. Our Drew Griffin is standing by at that hospital with the latest on the injured that have been taken there.
Drew, please update us and give us all you know about the injured there at the hospital.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: T.J., the story here is how surprisingly well the majority of them are doing. Nineteen male students, all of them students, came to here to Grady; 16 have only mild to moderate injuries, according to doctors who treated them. And they are, right now, trying to contact their parents or contact their families, try to reconnect with them, and let them know they're all right.
Of the three critical, two are out of operating room procedures, but the doctors did not know what (AUDIO GAP)
HOLMES: Looks like we might have lost our signal there to Drew Griffin at Grady Hospital.
But again, the update there is, as he is saying, it is surprising thing that maybe there aren't more injuries, at least 19 there, 16 of them, the injuries have been described as mild or moderate, three in critical. We'll continue to follow updates on their condition and bring them to you as we get them -- Betty.
NGUYEN: And 10 other students taken to other area hospitals here in Atlanta, Piedmont Hospital, being one of those. We have on the phone, Nina Montanaro, who is the public information officer there at Piedmont Hospital.
Nina, what can you tell us about the students who were brought there?
NINA MONTANARO, PIO, PIEDMONT HOSPITAL (via telephone): We do have three patients at Piedmont, two of them are in good condition in the ER. The third, I don't have consent yet to release any information. But we are confident that all three will be fine.
NGUYEN: That is good to hear. Are you having any kind of counselors on the scene to help with these students, since you say two of them appear to be in good condition. Obviously, they must be asking questions wanting to know what happened and their teammates.
MONTANARO: We do have our in-house chaplains on hand, and they are with the patients as needed, and talking with multiple family members, calling in looking for their loved ones. Most important at this point is the medical treatment of these patients.
The second most important is contacting the families. We are taking care of those patients, not just clinically but also all of their other needs as well. Did they seem to have a good idea of what happened? Have you learned anything from them as to exactly how this happened? MONTANARO: Have not learned anything from them about the accident itself. Again, the priority has been on clinical treatment. We have not spoken to them, other than their medical needs at this point.
NGUYEN: What's their main request at this hour?
MONTANARO: I have not heard of any specific requests. They have -- I've been in touch with parents, they have been in touch with parents, and also wanting to know about teammates and that kind of thing.
NGUYEN: Again, three patients there at Piedmont Hospital, two in good condition, one you cannot release the condition just yet. As soon as you can, would you give us a call and let us know?
MONTANARO: We sure will do that.
NGUYEN: All right, Nina Montanaro, the public information officer there at Piedmont Hospital.
Again, 19 students at Grady Memorial, 10 at other hospitals, including Piedmont, for a total of 29 students, and six students -- or people, I should say, because we don't know the condition of the bus driver -- have been killed in this accident.
HOLMES: Want to turn back to that -- story of horror, really out of Enterprise, Alabama, where a high school was hit and at least eight students were killed there, after that -- just a horrible day of severe weather we saw outbreak yesterday.
Mitchell Mock and Dylan Lewis, these are two brothers who are attending Enterprise High School, there in Alabama. They were there when, of course, that tornado ripped through the building. Also there, their mother, she was actually in the guidance counselor's office trying to get the boys and a third son out of school when the tornado hit.
Dylan Lewis now has a broken collarbone and Mitchell Mock is bruised and beat up a little bit. They all join us now, with their mother, Kim Lewis.
Thank you all for giving us a couple minutes here and letting us know what happened.
I'll start with you, Kim. Ma'am, you were there to get your boys out. You thought the weather was serious enough and you wanted to get your sons with you?
KIM LEWIS, SONS ATTEND ENTERPRISE HIGH: Yes, sir. I went to the school to try to check out my three boys. When I got there, there was this really long line of parents trying to get our children. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) were screaming for us to get in the guidance counselor's office and shut the door. And so we did.
In like just a few seconds, they started screaming, there's a tornado, and it went black and it hit right that fast.
HOLMES: Ma'am, why was -- I know us all, that grew up in the South, live in the South, we go through tornado warnings and watches and things like that a lot, was this standard for you, at least, when things like this happens, you always want to get your sons and have them with you, or was this storm -- did it seem more serious? And more severe and you took the step to say, hey, I'm going to get my boys?
Mitchell had started text messaging about 11:15, saying we could come get them if we came up to the school. My mom had gone up there to try to check them out, but they wouldn't release them to my mom at that time, because of the seriousness of the storm.
By the time I got up there, they were going to release the kids at 1:00 p.m.. It was like 1:00. But another tornado warning was issued right at that time, so they weren't letting any of the children go at 1:00 p.m. for that reason.
HOLMES: Dylan -- let me turn to Dylan, now, who has the broken collarbone. We all remember from high school going through a lot of tornado drills, and what not, and they were oftentimes false alarms. I'm sure you all have gone through them as well. What was the mood like around school, for the students, as you all were gathered there for the drill, and to get in a safe place? Were kids taking it very seriously, or were they kind of just in a good mood, still being kids?
DYLAN LEWIS, ENTERPRISE HIGH STUDENT: At first, no one really took it seriously. We just thought it was another drill, you know. Because we have them all the time, you know. Nothing serious, just lightning, some wind, you know. At first, no one really took it seriously until the lights starred flickering, and then some people started to take it seriously.
HOLMES: Mitchell, tell me where you were. We heard explanation that the school is set up a square within a square. And some of the more severely injured and some of the deaths that happened at the school were of students who were in that inner square, if you will, of the school. Tell me where you were. And just tell me the scene and walk me through it as this thing started to hit your school.
MITCHELL MOCK, ENTERPRISE HIGH STUDENT: I was in the third hall, the hall that collapsed in, I was maybe 10 feet away from the actual. I could look over and some of my friends that were sitting there, were the ones that were under the cement.
And where we were all the lights went out, and everyone started making jokes and then there was a cover on the skylight that was right above us, it shot down and glass shattered. And everyone got really quiet and knew it was serious.
And the no more than five seconds later, it was like a big explosion and debris started hitting us. I grabbed two of my friends that were beside me and got on top of them. And debris started hitting me on my back. And as soon as it quieted down, I looked up and where all those kids where shoulder-to-shoulder in the hallway, it was just all debris. It was like we were standing outdoors in a landfill. There was no sign of any kids or anything and we immediately just started grabbing stuff and helping the kids that we could find to help.
HOLMES: Did it look like -- and either one of you -- Dylan or Mitchell answer this for me. Did it look like, just looking around, you could certainly tell there were going to be a lot of injuries, and a lot of severe injuries, and even deaths? Did everyone, after it blew through, did everybody kick in, and start helping each other out?
D. LEWIS: At first, I mean -- it was chaos at first. Some people weren't helping at first because they didn't know what was going on, understandably, you know. After everything set in, like countless numbers -- I mean, numerous people just started helping out, trying to find people, you know. I mean, that entire portion of the hall, I was in the same hall as my brother, that entire -- I was under the debris. That entire portion is just -- there were no more people, just cement and air-conditioning parts.
HOLMES: Mom, Kim, I want to wrap up with you here, the last couple of things. When were you able to reunite with your boys? I guess, tell me what those minutes were like. When you're in the guidance counselor's office, you're scared enough that you just got hit by a tornado on top of you -- where you were -- at the same time, you don't know where your boys are in that school. Take me through that minute or two, quickly.
And also do you think that the school should have let the students out earlier, school should have been let out earlier in the day?
K. LEWIS: Well, the first question is they didn't want us to leave out of the guidance counselor office because you could look out the little window, and we could see the roof clasping in the foyer, and it was coming down. All the parents were so worried about our kids, we kind of said a joint thing, we have to get out of here, and see if our kids are okay.
So, when we finally opened the door, there were just hundreds of kids coming down the hallway. And a lot of them were covered with blood. I was looking for my three boys and I saw Mitchell first. He said, I've got to go back, mom. I'm okay but those kids are trapped under all that debris.
Then when I saw Dillon, he was covered in blood from head to toe. And my car was totaled, and I couldn't take him to the emergency room. Some nice man came and took him to the emergency room.
I don't know if they should have let school out sooner or not. I don't know because they could have been in their cars when it hit. So I don't know the answer to that.
HOLMES: All right.
K. LEWIS: I don't think there is a right thing to do. HOLMES: You're right. You do the best you can, and by all accounts, the kids did what they were supposed to, they were in the right spots. You can't predict these things.
Kim Lewis, and your two boys, Dillon and Mitchell today, we appreciate your time giving us some time and insight into what happened. Glad to see you all are OK. Sorry for your loss there at the school. I know it will be a tough recovery there for the town, especially for the school that lost eight students.
Our best here from CNN. Thank you so much for joining us.
NGUYEN: Unfortunately, she is just one of many parents today dealing with the tragic loss of students.
A bus accident in Atlanta, Georgia, at least near Atlanta, occurred earlier this morning, killing at least six people. That bus was carrying a team of Bluffton University a baseball players. At least six people have been killed, three people in critical condition at this hour. Some 29 students at the hospitals.
We will get more, though, now on what students are doing back at Bluffton University. And how they're reacting to the news of this accident today. Take a listen to WTVG Reporter Zack Ottenstein.
ZACK OTTENSTEIN, BLUFTON, OHION: Rebecca, there are just streams of students coming into the hall behind us. This is Founders Hall here on the Bluffton University campus, it is where they will be holding a prayer vigil for all students and faculty, staff, here at the university at 10 o'clock.
We just had an opportunity to speak with several of the students as they walked into the hall. There were members of the baseball team who were not on this trip. As you can imagine, the are distraught this morning.
We spoke to one gentleman who said that these teammates spend almost every moment of every day together, in practice, especially during this time of the year. He called this one big family. It feels as if they've lost a part of the family and he cannot describe the pain.
We asked him them how much information they have been able to receive? At this point they're information is still sketchy as well. Speaking to girlfriends, family members, close friends any people that they can get information from.
He tells us that there is some recovery going on and that he is hearing that some of the players in the bus accident are improving in their condition. But, obviously, there is extraordinary loss on the campus this morning. That is why you can see so many students walking into Founder's Hall to begin prayer.
We told you during our last live shot, this is a Mennonite campus and there is oftentimes prayer services here on the campus. Certainly today that religious faith will be called upon as everyone here makes an effort to grieve. We're live in Bluffton, Zack Ottenstein, 13 ABC Action News.
NGUYEN: And as they grieve, classes have been canceled for the day. As he just mentioned, at 10:00 a.m., there will be a crisis center set up so students can meet in Founders Hall there on the Bluffton University campus.
And then at 11:00 a.m., there will be a press conference. We'll take that live right here on CNN when it occurs.
We'll have much more on these two top stories, throughout the morning. You're in the CNN Newsroom.
HOLMES: And we do want to tell folks as well -- we're just getting word, a nice gesture here, AirTran is offering free flights to family and friends of some of those injured in that bus accident. A nice gesture there, we're going to get updates. Certainly some people want to take advantage of that. I just want to pass along that information as well. We'll be right back after a quick break here.
HOLMES: Here, again, is the latest video from the accident here in Atlanta, where at least six people have been killed. Another 22 now injured in this bus crash; this charter bus carrying a college baseball team from Ohio, actually plunged off an overpass onto a busy main artery here, that cuts through downtown Atlanta, Interstate 75.
We see now, the bus is finally being taken off that highway. The highway has been shut down for several hours. But again, this was the scene earlier. The bus plunged off an overpass onto a busy, busy highway. At least six killed, another 22 on that bus were injured.
We're trying to get -- we have updates coming in all morning. We're watching this story, getting updates on the conditions of some of the players. They were heading to Florida. It's a tragic, tragic story that we're hearing today out of Atlanta.
We will be all over this story for the next several hours. Stay with us here in the CNN NEWSROOM for those updates.
MESERVE: I'm Jeanne Meserve in Americus, Georgia. You see damage behind me but that doesn't begin to tell the story of the devastation of this small city. I'll have the story coming up in the NEWSROOM.
ROESGEN: I'm Susan Roesgen in Enterprise, Alabama, talking to stunned students and parents at the high school where eight students were killed by yesterday's tornado. I'll have the very latest coming up, here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
NGUYEN: Good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen.
HOLMES: And I'm T.J. Holmes. Tony and Heidi are off today.
NGUYEN: Spend a second hour in the NEWSROOM this morning and stay informed. Here's what we have on the run down for you.
HOLMES: A baseball team heading to a tournament ...
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