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Teen dead, others hurt after three-vehicle crash involving school bus on I-40 in Apache County

The school bus reportedly had slowed for a prior crash when it was rear-ended by a semi truck
Posted at 12:58 PM, Aug 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-29 23:31:20-04

APACHE COUNTY, AZ — A teenager is dead and four other people are hurt after a school bus was involved in a three-vehicle crash on I-40 in Apache County Sunday morning.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety says the bus was slowing down for a prior crash involving a commercial vehicle. That's when a semi-truck reportedly rear-ended the bus.

The impact sent the school bus into the commercial vehicle.

Nineteen people were on the school bus, according to DPS.

They say one of the occupants, a minor, died in the crash. Four other occupants of the bus were seriously hurt. DPS did not specify if those four people were also children.

Family told ABC15 the child killed was 17-year-old Kiarra Alma Gordon. She just celebrated her birthday on July 26.

Falonna Ashley, Gordon's aunt, says Gordon and her younger brother were on a school trip to Window Rock, Arizona.

Gordon's family is accepting donations through Zelle, sent to Falonna Ashley at 480-329-8551.

Eastbound I-40 was closed for some time due to the crash. Eastbound traffic has since reopened, but ADOT encourages drivers to be patient as the delay clears.

The victim's identity has not been officially released by authorities.

One of the students injured on Sunday was 15-year-old Freedom Chee.

"When I first got the call I thought of all the ways a semi could hit a bus, and I was freaking out," said Shyla Chee, Freedom's sister.

"We just recently lost our mom and that was only a couple of months ago," said Shyla. "To hear that she was in an accident, it was just retraumatized all over."

Thankfully Freedom is okay, but she and five other Holbrook Indian School students were injured.

Freedom is one of three still in the hospital.

Shyla said her sister has several broken bones in one of her legs. She said her sister told her just before impact the students were sleeping, but Freedom woke up to her leg bleeding.

"We are really sorry for the girl that passed and that was my sisters friend," said Shyla. "We don’t know what to say to one another right now."

Shyla said her sister has had one surgery, and a second is planned in the next few days.

She thinks freedom will be in the hospital for at least another week.

The crash remains under investigation.

Holbrook Indian School posted a statement on its Facebook in regard to the crash:

This is a very sad day for the Holbrook Indian School community; one of our students died, and six others were injured in a school bus accident this morning.

According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, our school bus slowed down in traffic near another crash when the bus was struck from behind by a semi-truck. Our bus was pushed into the vehicle in front of it.

The bus was transporting a group of staff and students on a field trip to Window Rock, New Mexico. Our concerns now are for our parents and families as we uphold and grieve with them.

We ask that you would be patient and respectful as we work through this as a school community, and we solicit your prayers on behalf of everyone impacted by this tragedy.