A MATA bus driver was killed Tuesday morning on southbound I-240 and South Parkway after she was ejected from the bus she operating after a collision with a cement truck.
The MATA bus driver was identified as Chantel Sanders. She had been a MATAplus driver since 2005.
The scene was horrific, which unfolded at around 8:30 a.m. The cement truck ended up on its side while the front end of the MATA bus was sheered off.
Ms. Sanders was found under the bus she had been driving just minutes before.
"It is with deep sadness that we report the death of MATAplus Bus Operator Chantel Sanders," said William Hudson, MATA president and general manager in a statement. "We express our deepest condolences to her family and close friends, and ask all Memphians to please keep them in their thoughts and prayers."
According to MATA's safety department's preliminary report, witnesses and police reports, a cement truck was traveling onto the loop from South Parkway to enter southbound I-240 traffic. The cement truck appears to have lost control on the ramp, flipped on its side and made contact with the bus in the right curb lane. The contact caused the bus to hit the concrete embankment where Sanders then lost control.
Dozens of people saw the accident including Shuntail Taylor who looked up to see the bus just as it collided with the cement truck.
"When the truck hit her, she went through the windshield she went through it," Taylor told FOX13 News. "The bus rolled on top of her cause she's under the bus right now. It's just really really sad."
Message from Mayor AC Wharton's Facebook Page: "Our hearts go out to the family of Memphis Area Transit Authority employee, Chantel Sanders, who was killed in a tragic accident earlier today while performing her duties as a bus driver. In particular, her loss is felt deeply by her colleagues at MATA, her fellow city employees, and all of those who share in the sacrifice associated with serving the public. We honor her memory and ask that you would pray for her family."
Another witness Tataudry Hall described seeing the cement truck entering the freeway from the ramp.
"The dump truck came off the ramp," Hall said. "When he got down to the bottom it started to lean. I guess the load shifted on it and it started to roll onto the expressway, and once it rolled onto the expressway immediately the MATA bus driver came following behind and smacked into the dump truck (the back of the truck). Then the MATA bus shifted to the left and hit that wall. It came back to the right and flew out the windshield and once she flew out she got stuck under the MATA bus."
MATAplus is a service offering smaller vehicles and origin-to-destination service to persons with disabilities. Sanders had already made several runs Tuesday morning and was on her way to another pick-up at the time of the tragedy.
Sanders leaves behind two sons, a grandchild and her mother.
"This accident hits all of us within the MATA family very hard," added Hudson. "We have been blessed with more than 50 years without the loss of a driver on duty due to an accident, so this is emotional for us and a sadness that we are all trying to come to grips with."
The cement truck driver was taken to The MED in critical condition.
Southbound I-240 was closed for several hours while emergency crews tried to remove the body of the female bus driver and recreate the accident.
There were no other reported injuries from the traffic accident.
Grief counselors are being made available to the MATA employees.
MATA is also in the process of participating in the establishment of an account at a local bank, and will make a contribution on behalf of MATA to the account, to help the family.
FOX13 News Good Morning Memphis reporter Earle Farrell contributed to this report.