Helena-West Helena Withdraws from Playoffs Following Bus Accident

SALINE COUNTY, Ark. - A difficult call made Saturday morning to withdraw Helena-West Helena's Central High School from the football playoffs, according to a press release from the Arkansas Activities Association. 

"It's a tough time and that was a tough decision," Andrew Bagley, Helena-West Helena School Board President said. 

Friday afternoon, three Cougar buses filled with about 80 cheerleaders, band members and football players were heading to their playoff game in Arkadelphia. 

They never made it. 

"They deserve that chance to perform in Arkadelphia, it's just unfortunate that we had this traffic accident," Bagley said. 

An issue in front of the lead bus caused a chain reaction of crashes in Saline County on I-30. 

According to the superintendent, more than 40 students went to local hospitals with minor injuries and were released the same night. One student went to Arkansas Children's Hospital but was also released Friday night. 

About 15 injured were football players. 

"It would have been very difficult for us to have that many players bounce back and be at full strength by Monday," Bagley said. 

Bagley's son is a band member and was on one of the buses. 

 "I shared [parents] concerns and felt what they felt," he said.  

One decision maker in pulling the team is Superintendent John Hoy.  

"The reality of it is, as much as we would have loved to play and given our seniors that opportunity, it is a game," Hoy said.  

A perspective and reminder for the school district as it works through the aftermath of the accident. 

"We feel like we're doing a good job in Helena-West Helena and you know this has been a set back for us, but it's life.  Life is going to offer you those. And you dust yourself off and you get back up and you keep moving," Hoy said.  

After the accident, Benton public schools offered some of their buses to help get HWH students back home. The accident took out 3 of HWHSD's 17 buses. They were the newest in the fleet. 

We reached out to the Arkadelphia Athletic Director, Chris Babb about the accident. 

"First, we're thankful that no students were seriously injured and our thoughts and prayers are with the students and their families for a quick recovery. We understand that this was a difficult situation for Mr. Hoy, Coach Smith and the HWH School District and one that no administrator ever wants to have to make because of these type of circumstances," Babb said. 

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