An Irvin High School track coach was among two people killed when a pickup truck slammed into a charter bus carrying El Paso Independent School District athletes and coaches back from a regional track meet in Lubbock.
Arcadio Duran Jr., 48, was killed when the bus collided head-on with a pickup truck on U.S. 62/180 in Hudspeth County just after midnight Sunday. The Texas Department of Public Safety said the eastbound pickup truck driven by Gary Lawson, 51, of Hobbs, New Mexico, went into the westbound lane. Both vehicles swerved in the same direction, colliding head-on. Lawson and Duran were both pronounced dead at the scene. His vehicle caught fire after the accident.
About 17 people from the EPISD bus were transported to two El Paso hospitals with what were described as non-life-threatening injuries, district officials said. About half were released Sunday and the others were staying for observation, district officials said.
EPISD Superintendent Juan Cabrera said district officials visited the injured at the hospitals on Sunday morning and “they were shaken up but doing well.”
Coaches and trainers who were on the bus went above and beyond to care for students on the bus and make sure they were evacuated safely, without regard to their own injuries, Cabrera said.
Athletes and coaches from Canutillo and Socorro districts were traveling in a caravan with them and stopped to provide comfort and aid, he added.
“It is times like these that we are all reminded that we are one family, all one community, all focused on taking care of kids,” Cabrera said.
The bus was carrying students, coaches and trainers from seven high schools — El Paso, Chapin, Andress, Irvin, Jefferson, Burges and Austin.
The accident happened along mile marker 94 shortly after midnight. The area is about 70 miles east of El Paso.
Cabrera and EPISD Board of Trustees President Dori Fenenbock both said that the district followed its own protocols and standard practices on whether students and coaches should stay overnight during a trip like this. The regional track meet ended Saturday afternoon.
“Any time we have an event like this, it causes us to review our practices and policies,” Fenenbock said. “We live on the edge of Texas in a very large state. We want to be able to maximize our students’ participation in athletic events as much as possible. It would be devastating if we could not come up with funds to participate.”
“This was in no way our fault or our bus driver’s fault,” Fenenbock continued. “This could have happened in the afternoon.”
The charter bus, driver by a professional driver, was equipped with seat belts, district officials said.
Grief counseling and other support will be made available at the affected schools and in their feeder systems, district officials added.
An SUV with about a half-dozen Canutillo High School athletes coming back from the same track meet came upon the accident. They stopped and when they realized that members of the local track community were involved in the accident, they got out of their vehicle and allowed some athletes and a coach in the EPISD bus to come into their vehicle to get warm, said Ruben Galaviz, the head track coach at Canutillo.
Canutillo athletes also gave some of the athletes and coaches who were involved in the crash some of their clothes and blankets to stay warm, Galaviz added.
“Everyone stepped up,” he said. “But our Canutillo kids did what anyone else would have done in the same situation.”