Police in East Texas said two men in a pickup truck were killed early Sunday after their vehicle crashed head-on into a charter bus carrying 25 students heading home from a field trip in Florida.
The driver of the pickup truck, Jeffrey Dalton Aynesworth, 22, of Rusk, and passenger Payton Joseph Raymond, 24, of Flint, both died at the scene of the wreck on Loop 49 near the U.S. Highway 69 exit just after 4 a.m., Tyler police said.
Five people on the bus -- including the driver, two adults and two students from Brook Hill School -- were taken to UT Health Tyler for treatment for minor injuries, according to the Tyler Morning Telegraph. The remaining 27 occupants were unharmed, and parents arrived at the crash site to pick up the students.
Police said eyewitnesses on the scene reported the pickup truck traveled into the westbound lane into oncoming traffic, striking the front left side of the bus and forcing it off the highway.
Investigators ordered autopsies and toxicology screenings on the deceased to determine if there were any substances in their systems at the time of the crash. Officials are also working with representatives from the charter bus company ECHO Transportation to obtain dash-cam footage, the Tyler Morning Telegraph reported.
The Brook Hill School students were on their way home from a field trip to Orlando as part of their Spring Potential and Reality Courses (SPARC) week. Brook Hill is a private Christian school with enrollment from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
“Moments like this remind us how precious life is. We are thankful that our students, faculty and families are able to return to their loved ones without any life-threatening injuries,” Rod Fletcher, head of The Brook Hill School, said in a statement to East Texas Matters.
"At the same time, we are deeply saddened over the lives lost in the accident this morning. Our entire Brook Hill community remains in prayer for their friends and families during this time of grief. We are grateful for the love and prayers from our Brook Hill family and the East Texas community for all those affected by the accident.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.