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Freight Train in North Georgia Rips School Bus in Two, Killing Two Children, Injuring Others

Aired March 28, 2000 - 2:06 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: A freight train ripped a school bus in two today in the hill country about three hours north of Atlanta. Two children were killed. Three others now are critical.

CNN's Martin Savidge joins us from the Georgia-Tennessee border as this investigation heats up.

Martin, what's new?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the accident happened around 7:00 this morning in small, rural, North Georgia community of Tennga on the railroad tracks here where we're standing.

And behind us now, you can see there is another freight train coming this way.

One of the things to point out, the accident happened at a railroad crossing that is located about 100, 150 yards down the track, right near where that train is now. You can notice that there is a curve in the tracks. And one of the things that is going to be factored into this investigation is whether the school bus driver could clearly see the train. The train -- or the school bus rather, was crossing over the tracks. It had eight people onboard. A 34-year- old woman was the driver, and there was seven young students. At that time, the impact was so great that it actually separated the body of the school bus away from the chassis of the school bus. It carried it and the people onboard about 50 yards down the track in the direction that the CSX freight train was headed.

We understand that there were two children that were declared dead on the scene. All of them are said to be elementary schoolchildren. And then at that time, there was about five other children that were critically injured. Those children had to be airlifted to a medical facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. They initially were airlifted in critical condition. We understand that two of the children have now improved or at least it said that there conditions have improved now to serious condition.

One of the things we also want to point out about this particular railroad crossing is the fact that the only warning is a sign that is up here. There are no posted gates. There are no lights here. It is merely this simple sign. The NTSB and the Tennessee Highway Patrol are both investigating, trying to determine who couldn't see the train when it was approaching. It was clear that those onboard the train said they saw the bus, tried to stop, but didn't have enough time or room.

Reporting live from North Georgia, Martin Savidge, CNN.

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