Tina Jones, a labor and delivery nurse at Baylor University Medical Hospital, was driving to work yesterday on Interstate 45 toward Dallas when she saw a bus explode six cars ahead of her.
She immediately pulled over, identified herself as a nurse to the police and asked how she could help. They sent her to a cordoned off area, where she worked with paramedics to triage the passengers who made it off the bus.
That bus, owned by the Virginia-based company Sunrise Senior Living, was carrying 38 residents and six employees of Houston's Brighton Gardens nursing home to another home in Dallas. It is thought mechanical problems sparked a fire, which was then fueled by explosions of passengers' oxygen tanks.
Almost all of the patients suffered some type of smoke inhalation and had cuts and bruises, said Jones. She was triaging patients, unaware of the extent of the tragedy until she came across an 84-year-old man who was looking for his wife.
"He was heaving and sobbing. I thought he was hurt, and I asked him, 'What can I do to help you?' He said, 'I'm looking for my wife. Her name is Ada. I need my wife.' I found one of the nurses that had been on the bus with him and said, 'I need help finding Ada,' and she just shook her head," said Jones.
That's when Jones realized that not everyone made it off the bus. She learned from the other nurses that 24 people did not survive.
"[Passengers] were dealing with the fact that the person sitting next to them didn't make it off," she said.
"It's pretty traumatic," she added, "just the most horrific tragedy."