Konawa Schools and the community are grieving the loss of a Konawa Junior High Softball player who died in a Friday evening bus crash that also claimed the lives of two occupants of an SUV.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported three fatalities in that head-on collision involving an SUV and a Konawa Schools activity bus. That crash, which remains under investigation, occurred just after 7 p.m. on US 377, about one mile south of Bowlegs in Seminole County.
According to an obituary, 12-year-old Rhindi Kay Isaacs, a member of the Konawa Junior High Softball Team, died from injuries she suffered in that crash. Five other student athletes, and the driver of the Konawa bus, were injured, the OHP reported, and were treated for injuries at area hospitals and later released.
OHP's initial report shows an unknown year SUV and the school bus collided head-on, resulting in a fiery crash. Both occupants of the SUV died at the scene and were first listed on the trooper's report as names withheld pending identification from the state medical examiner.
Later, OHP asked for the public's help identifying the female passenger, saying, “OHP investigators have tentatively identified the driver of the SUV as John Tallbear, pending confirmation from the Medical Examiner's Office. But investigators do not have any leads on the female passenger in his vehicle.”
The crash remains under investigation, but the OHP said the Konawa Blue Bird bus, driven by Joseph Scoggins, 30, Konawa, was southbound. The SUV, going northbound, had passed another northbound vehicle and stayed in the southbound lane, the patrol said. Scoggins took evasive action in the bus and swerved into the northbound lane to avoid a collision, but the SUV swerved back into the northbound lane and hit the bus head-on, the OHP said, pinning both driver and passenger of the SUV before both vehicles caught fire.
Scoggins was transported by Mercy EMS to Mercy Hospital in Ada with head, arm and leg injuries, the OHP said, where he was treated and then released.
The SUV driver's condition when the crash occurred is listed as unknown and remains under investigation by the patrol, the trooper's report shows.
On Saturday, Superintendent Cory Ellis from Konawa Schools posted a heartfelt message on the district's Facebook page.
In his post, he said the junior high softball team was traveling home on the activity bus from their game in Okemah when the accident occurred.
In that post, Ellis said the bus was crossing the Little River bridge when it was allegedly hit by a drunk driver, although that allegation has not been confirmed by the patrol.
Ellis outlined that counselors are available for students and teachers. The community held a vigil Sunday evening and on Monday, Konawa classes were canceled but a wake was held in the high school lobby area for students, teachers, and the community to spend time with and support each other. Classes are scheduled to resume March 12.
A crisis management team made up of outside organizations trained in crisis counseling along with local clergy in assisting in Konawa as the school district and community prepares for Rhindi's Memorial Service, which is scheduled 10 a.m. March 15 in the Konawa Public School Performing Arts Center.
According to the obituary from Swearingen Funeral Home, Rhindi, the daughter of Haydon Bryant and Jessi Kay Isaacs, was a sixth grade student at Konawa and also attended Bethlehem Baptist Church. She loved to make slime and to buy shoes and hoodies, and she loved all of her teammates on the softball team.
Through this tragedy, Konawa Schools has received an outpouring of support.
"I want you all to know the flood of support, thoughts and prayers our school and community has already received through messages and phones calls from all over the state," Ellis said in a Facebook post. "I’d also like to thank the Bowlegs Volunteer Fire Department and the numerous amount of First Responders on the scene and especially those passerby’s names we will not know that initially stopped to help. We are a special community and a special family."
Konawa FFA, through its Facebook page, also asked for prayers Friday evening.
"Tragic update: 3 people have died in this accident. Our community, this team, this coach, the families, the students, the teachers; all will need all of your love, prayers, and support for the many days to come. We are a small town. We are close knit. This is a time for us to come together and lean on each other in our time of grief,” the Konawa FFA post shows.
As the crash remains under investigation and investigators await a confirmed identity SUV driver and attempt to ID the female passenger, the OHP is asking for anyone with any information on who Tallbear might have been with in the days leading up to the crash to call Troop D headquarters at 918-423-3636.
Watch for updates.