HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) – A fourth high school student died of injuries she got when her school bus nose-dived off an interstate overpass, the police chief said Tuesday.

The bus driver, who was found critically injured on the overpass, was among 15 who remained hospitalized, authorities said. Four were listed as critical.

Police Chief Rex Reynolds identified the fourth victim of Monday’s school bus wreck as Crystal Renee McCrary, 17. Like the other victims, she was a student at Lee High School who was on the bus when a car came up in a side lane and the bus veered over the guardrail and crashed about 30 feet below.

Debbie Hersman, a spokeswoman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said investigators were trying to determine how the driver ended up on the overpass, escaping the devastating impact that crumpled the front of the bus.

Police said the bus, taking students to classes at a downtown tech center, swerved on the overpass, plowed through a concrete barrier and plunged to the street. More than 30 students were injured.

Reynolds said a Toyota Celica driven by another Lee High student apparently came close to or struck the bus, causing it to swerve.

There is “some contact evidence,” Hersman said, noting that investigators were looking for paint transfers between the vehicles.

Authorities have not released the name of the driver in what police said is a criminal investigation. Police spokesman Wendell Johnson said evidence will be presented to a grand jury to decide whether charges such as vehicular homicide or manslaughter are warranted.

He said a criminal investigation “does not mean a crime has been committed.”

Chelsea Walker, 17, who described herself as a friend of the car’s driver, said she had spoken to him Tuesday morning. “He’s real upset. He thinks it’s his fault,” she said.

Brett Johnson, a Lee student who was in a vehicle in front of the school bus, said the Celica didn’t have enough space to get past the bus, as lanes merged on the interstate ramp, and collided with the front of the bus. The car got shoved back and hit a concrete wall, Johnson said.

“The bus started swerving a little bit, like he hit the brakes and was trying to maintain control. Then it hit the wall and just flipped,” he said.

State school officials identified the Lee High School students who died at the scene as Christine Collier, 16, a sophomore, and Nicole Ford, 19, a senior. A third, Tanesha Hill, 17, a senior, died Monday at the hospital from her injuries.

The mangled school bus, which was not equipped with seat belts, was towed from the crash site Tuesday. Hersman said investigators will try to find out where each student was sitting and what happened to them as the bus went over the railing and crashed. She said the agency also would determine whether the highway railing met federal standards.


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