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Aspiring teacher, 7-year-old girls, among those killed in crash of 2 Tennessee school buses

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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — An aspiring teacher with two children of her own and a little girl who loved to read were among those killed when two Tennessee school buses carrying children home for the day crashed on Tuesday.

A preliminary investigation by Knoxville police found that the buses were traveling in opposite directions on the Asheville Highway when the driver of a bus carrying children from an intermediate school made a sudden left turn across the concrete median and crashed into the other bus.

The second bus, taking children home from a primary school, flipped onto its side. Three people in that bus died, and another three suffered serious injuries.

Police identified the two children who were killed as Zykia Burns and Seraya Glasper, both 7. The adult was 46-year-old Kimberly Riddle, a teacher's aide.

A. Gene Thomas Jr. was Seraya's pastor.

"She loved to read," he said of the little girl. "She was active at her church, of course with the young people. She loved life and she loved going to school."

Thomas said he was with Seraya's family Tuesday night. They were devastated but "holding it together thanks to their belief and faith in God."

Thomas said the church was gathering Wednesday evening to support the family and pray with them and also to pray for the others who were injured and killed.

Cynthia Wester, the mother of Kimberly Riddle, said her daughter had two master's degrees and was preparing to take the test to make her a certified teacher.

"She loved it. She was a natural born teacher," Wester said, adding that her daughter's experience as a youth minister at her church had prepared her for a future in teaching.

Wester said her daughter had "a desire to see children grow and learn."

"She said that they were wonderful kids," Wester said of her daughter's students.

PHOTO: Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre composes himself during a news conference after the crash of two school buses on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014, in Knoxville, Tenn. At right is Knoxville Police Department Chief David Rausch. At least three people died in the accident.  Two buses carrying children home from school collided on a Tennessee highway killing two students and an adult and injuring another 23 people.  Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch said the children who died were between the ages of kindergarten and third grade. The adult who died was an aide.   (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Paul Efird)
Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre composes himself during a news conference after the crash of two school buses on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014, in Knoxville, Tenn. At right is Knoxville Police Department Chief David Rausch. At least three people died in the accident. Two buses carrying children home from school collided on a Tennessee highway killing two students and an adult and injuring another 23 people. Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch said the children who died were between the ages of kindergarten and third grade. The adult who died was an aide. (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Paul Efird)

Wester said her daughter had two children, a 14-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son.

"I talked to my son-in-law and he said they're hanging in there. They're doing the best they can," she said.

An additional 27 people were injured in the crash.

Police identified the most seriously injured children as Jaden Allen and Jada Parman, both 7. They were taken to the University of Tennessee Medical Center along with the driver of the first bus, James Davenport, 47, and five others.

Six of those eight patients have been discharged, Medical Center spokesman Jim Ragonese said. A seventh, identified by police as a 7-year-old girl, is in stable condition, he said. No information was given on the eighth patient.

Other children were taken to the East Tennessee Children's Hospital for what Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch described as "bumps and scrapes."

Fifth-grader Joy Reinmann was among those with minor injuries. She told Knoxville television station WBIR-TV that the crash threw students out of their seats "and everyone was on the floor and screaming and crying."

"... I thought I was going to die," she said. She ended up with a black eye, but her mother, Joline Reinmann, said she knows it could have been much worse.

"I'm relieved, I'm so relieved. I couldn't imagine her not with me anymore," Reinmann said.

Class was not being held Wednesday at either of the involved schools — Chilhowee Intermediate, third to fifth grades, and Sunnyview Primary, kindergarten to second grade — but counselors were available for students or families.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday that it was sending investigators to the scene.


Travis Loller reported from Nashville, Tennessee Associated Press Writer Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee, and News Researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York, contributed to this report.

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Video:
PHOTO: Two children and one adult were killed when two school buses crashed Tuesday on a Knoxville, Tennessee highway. (Dec. 2)
Two children and one adult were killed when two school buses crashed Tuesday on a Knoxville, Tennessee highway. (Dec. 2) PHOTO: Knoxville, Tennessee police say a preliminary investigation indicates that a school bus made a sharp left before crossing a concrete median and hitting a second bus. Three people died in the accident on Tuesday. (Dec. 3)
Knoxville, Tennessee police say a preliminary investigation indicates that a school bus made a sharp left before crossing a concrete median and hitting a second bus. Three people died in the accident on Tuesday. (Dec. 3)
Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: Authorities work the scene of an accident involving two school buses in Knoxville, Tenn., Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014.  Two school buses have collided on a Tennessee highway, injuring at least 20 people. Darrell DeBusk, a Knoxville police spokesman, says three people who were most seriously injured were taken to the University of Tennessee Medical Center. At least 17 additional students were being transported to East Tennessee Children's Hospital with minor injuries. There was no immediate word on what caused the crash or the exact condition of those who were injured. (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Michael Patrick)
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