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Konawa Middle School student among three killed in Friday wreck

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KONAWA — A small Oklahoma community is reeling after a middle school softball player was among those killed in a fiery wreck Friday evening in Seminole County.

About 7:20 p.m. Friday, a sport utility vehicle was traveling north on U.S. 377, about 1 mile south of Bowlegs, and had gone into an oncoming lane of the highway to pass another vehicle. A bus belonging to Konawa Public Schools was traveling south on the highway and swerved in an attempt to avoid the SUV, but the two vehicles collided head-on and caught fire, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported.

A child in the bus, whose name was not released, was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the SUV, identified as John Tallbear, and a passenger also died at the scene. Investigators were still working to determine the identity of the passenger.

The patrol does not release the names of juvenile victims in initial reports.

Five other children on the bus were taken to a Seminole hospital, treated for their injuries and released. The driver of the bus, Joseph Scoggins, 30, of Konawa, was taken to an Ada hospital, treated for injuries and released, troopers said.

Konawa Public Schools officials confirmed Saturday that the bus was carrying members of the Konawa Middle School softball team, on the way home after a game in Okemah.

Cory Ellis, superintendent for the school district, wrote on Facebook that six girls and their coach were aboard the bus as they were crossing the Little River bridge and struck by the SUV.

“An effort is being made to provide an appropriate response to the situation. The administration is currently designing a plan to provide assistance to our students and their families,” Ellis wrote Saturday on Facebook. “We know that students and staff will react in different ways to emergencies of this nature, so it will be important to have support available to assist both staff and students in need.”

Ellis said there had been a “flood of support, thoughts and prayers” for the school and community from across the state. He thanked the work of the Bowlegs Volunteer Fire Department and other first responders who helped at the crash scene Friday night.

School district officials announced Saturday afternoon that all schools would be closed Monday and all extracurricular activities were canceled Monday through Saturday. A prayer vigil was scheduled from 6 to 7 p.m. Sunday in the performing arts center.

Rebekah Mullins Rogers, a Konawa teacher, wrote on Facebook that the “unthinkable” had happened Friday.

“Nothing prepares you for this. My heart is broken,” she wrote. “Please pray for all involved, but specifically pray for her momma. Pray for the girls who will relive this nightmare every time they close their eyes. Pray for the coach who did everything he could. Pray for her family and friends. Pray for the teachers as we grieve ourselves and try to stand by our students as they grieve. Pray for the counselors that will be working with these students. Pray for our community. Pray for Konawa.”

Gov. Kevin Stitt on Saturday said he had reached out to the school district to offer support.

"My prayers are with the Konawa Junior High School students and their families. I have reached out to the district to offer any support they may need during this difficult time," Stitt wrote on Twitter.

Local banks in Konawa, Sooner State Bank and BancFirst, will be opening accounts Monday for donations.

The collision remained under investigation, troopers said.

Josh Wallace

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