Ackerman High School in tears after bus accident

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

ACKERMAN – High school students and staff are mourning the loss of two teachers today after a tragic bus accident Tuesday afternoon.

“Words cannot express the love and devotion these teachers had for their students,” said Ackerman High School Principal Terry Bellew during an emotional press conference at the Choctaw County Community Center on Wednesday morning.

Ackerman High School teachers Phyllis Graham, 53, of Eupora, and Steven Moss, 37, of Ackerman, were killed when a tractor-trailer slammed into their bus around 2 p.m.

They were accompanying high school seniors on a trip to the University of Mississippi to learn about the admissions process and get a tour.

Graham was a special education teacher who had been with the school more than four years; she was on the trip to assist one special-needs child. Moss was a history teacher and also coached football and golf.

Both left behind spouses and children.

“We believe they were both killed instantly,” said Choctaw County School District Superintendent Donna Shea, whose voice was shaking as she spoke.

Also killed was the truck’s driver, Gary Bailey, 54, of Mantachie. The accident still is under investigation.

The Choctaw County School District called this morning’s press conference to provide an update.

About 45 people were there, including school officials, law-enforcement agents, city leaders and others, according to Amanda McBride, reporter at the Choctaw Plain Dealer.

McBride assisted the Daily Journal with event coverage.

Shea thanked emergency personnel for their quick response. She then asked that the media and the public respect the community’s privacy as it mourns.

Counselors are at the school today helping students and teachers as they grieve.

Several students also were injured in the accident, which occurred on state Highway 8 West south of Calhoun City and involved two buses. None of the students’ injuries were considered life-threatening.

Ten students and one teacher were taken to the hospital. All but four of the passengers involved in the crash have been released from the hospital, Bellew said. Those who remain are under observation.

Read the full story in Thursday’s Daily Journal.