West Texas remembers deadly school bus crash one year later

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The Iraan community is remembering the tragic bus crash that happened exactly one year ago Saturday. The accident killed the team’s cheer sponsor and sent more than half-a-dozen other people to the hospital.

Following the crash, several Big Country schools proving in Texas we are all neighbors and showing the Iraan community support during the tragedy.

You may recall, the fatal crash happened as the team was on the way home from a playoff football game.

Last December, the Iraan Braves made it to the next round but part of their cheer team never got to see it. A night that was supposed to be a celebration, turned into a community’s worst nightmare.

“She just always told them to do their best no matter what. No matter what life throws at you, you do your best,” Tracey Myers, Iraan’s cross country head coach said.

Friday, December 2nd, 2016 is day West Texas will never forget.

“We were all excited because, of course, we were in the football playoffs and everybody was ready to go and we had a huge send off and we get there and we win, it’s raining, but we don’t mind because we’ve won. We’re eating with the football team and then that’s when we get the news that the cheerleaders have just had a bus wreck,” Coach Myers said.

Interstate 20 mile marker 176, near Big Springs, Texas.

The team headed home from a victorious play off game until the unthinkable happened.

A car crossing the center line swerving into the bus, killing 52-year-old Elizabeth Pope and injuring 6 cheerleaders and the bus driver. Tracey Myers remembers taking frantic parents to the hospital.

“One of my cross country runners who was a cheerleader was involved in the wreck and her mom couldn’t get to Lubbock because they were transporting her to the hospital in Lubbock, so I put her in my car and drove her to Lubbock,” Myers said.

Myers said it was a whirlwind of emotions.
“There were many sadness because we knew we had lost Liz. We just thought about the last time I saw her, we gave a hug and we were high-fiveing and thinking about a new t-shirt at the end of that football game,” Coach Myers said.

News of the accident spread all across West Texas and even right here in the Big Country.

“It was really heartbreaking for us too just to even imagine, we’re working one-on-one with our coach all the time and we spend more time with our coach during football season than maybe our own parents so to even imagine a loss like that to a cheer team is was just unimaginable,” Abilene High School cheerleader co-captain, Sarah Frazier said.
“A couple of years ago we had one of our family members of the band pass away and it was especially hard for all of us because we were in the middle of our season and you know, a really emotional time in general and then he passed away and it just hurt all of us,” Cooper High School drum major, Sammy Guadarrama said.

Members of the Abilene High School band and Cooper High School band remember organizing a dinner for the tragedy-stricken school at the team’s next football game, which happened to be at Shotwell Stadium, in Abilene.

“Our band prepared and served the meals since they were out of town and we served them dinner and made them feel like they were at home,” Guadarrama said.

Many teams from neighboring communities came out to support the cheerleaders inside cooper high school’s cafeteria. That compassion also carried over to the football field.

“We got together and made like a sign that said Iraan strong and supported them whenever they needed it most,” Frazier said. “There was a full audience for the football game.

The cheer team and the football team felt overwhelmed with the outpouring of support.

“I think it was really important for us to recognize that these are people that are positive influences so we need to be a positive influence for them as well and support them,” Frazier said.

Today, a couple of those girls are also on Myers’ cross country team are still recovering from the broken noses, shoulders, legs, faces and neck.
To this day, some are still taking physical therapy or visiting rehab for their injuries.

“Linda has had a little anxiety about getting on the bus but there again, she got on it and knew she’s still a cheerleader and knew that Liz would want her to get back on that bus,” Coach Myers said.

Nora Martinez is an ex-Brave and a former Iraan High School cheerleader who said she always enjoyed Pope’s presence.

“On the buses, we would jam to music and she would laugh with us and she would joke around and she would help us get ready and she was just a wonderful person to be around with. Always laughing, always dancing and always had a smile on her face,” Martinez said.

Iraan superintendent, Kevin Allen, said Pope’s service to the community will always be remembered.

“She loved working with the girls, she loved her job at the elementary, she loved the school district, she loved the community. Her whole life was about Iraan,”Allen said.

Iraan’s interim superintendent, who plans to take over Allen’s position when he retires this month, Michael Meek, said Iraan High School’s Ex-Student Association has created a scholarship in Elizabeth Pope’s name, eligible for graduating seniors.   

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