LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A third-grader was killed and at least 45 people were injured when a charter bus carrying youth football players from Tennessee rolled off an interstate and overturned before sunrise Monday in central Arkansas, authorities said.

Arkansas State Police said the bus crashed along Interstate 30 near Benton. Police said most of the injured were children who were taken to hospitals in Little Rock and Benton.

The elementary-school age players from Orange Mound Youth Association in southeast Memphis were returning home after playing in a tournament in the Dallas area, according to Memphis TV station WMC. Orange Mound is a historically black neighborhood that unites around its highly competitive youth football program.

Damous Hailey, one of about half a dozen adults on the bus, told The Commercial Appeal newspaper that the bus swerved then flipped “about 15 or 20 times,” before stopping at the foot of a hill.

“When the bus started flipping, the kids were hollering, and we were trying to calm them down,” he said in an interview from Saline Memorial Hospital, where he was treated for injuries to his right side and leg. “I was holding on, trying to make sure I didn’t get thrown out.”

At a news conference in Memphis Monday, Nickalous Manning, area superintendent of Aspire Public Schools, said a third-grader from an Aspire charter school who was “full of life, full of energy,” died in the crash. He did not reveal the child’s name.

“When we talked to teammates here, you saw on their faces about what that young person meant to them, the impact that he had on the school community,” Manning said. “This is going to be a loss that’s going to be hard to heal from.”

Authorities haven’t talked about what caused the crash. Images from the scene showed the heavily damaged bus on its side on an embankment near dense woodland, just at the crook of a sharp bend in the road. The bus was hoisted upright and pulled from the scene late Monday morning.

The bus driver was being questioned by troopers.

Dr. Todd Maxson, surgeon in chief and trauma medical director at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, said 22 of the 26 children aged 9 to 13 who were admitted to the facility had been released by late Monday afternoon. He said the four remaining children were stable and expected to fully recover from their injuries.

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