This weekend, Fort Worth hosted the third annual Big Texas National Championship, which pulled in youth football squads from states away. One of those was the Orange Mound Youth Association, which drove in from Memphis. On an overnight trip back home Monday morning, the bus carrying the team went off the road at about 2:40 a.m., near Benton, Arkansas. It flipped several times down a hill and ended up on its side in an embankment, according to news reports. Nine-year-old Kamron Johnson died, and more than 40 others were injured.
The Commercial Appeal, Memphis’ daily, says 22 of the 26 children brought to the Arkansas Children’s Hospital have since been released, and that the other four are “stable and expected to recover.” Broken bones are among the injuries, including skull fractures. For her part, the driver of the bus said in a statement to police that she lost control of the vehicle, according to the Appeal, which also dug up a July 2018 citation against the bussing company for allowing a driver to operate without proper licensing.
Although the true impact is some seven hours away, the Dallas-Fort Worth youth football community has banded together in the last couple days to show their support for the ailing families. Several coaches and parents from area teams are holding a candlelight vigil this evening at 7:30 p.m. on SMU’s practice field, open to anyone, with a balloon release to honor Kamron Johnson.
“It’s a tragic event, but we want want to let them know and shout from the rooftops here in Dallas that we’re thinking of them, praying for them, and that they’re not alone,” says Derrick Evers, who’s CEO of Kaizen Development Partners and has a son who played in the tournament.
Evers says the parents and other fans of Orange Mound, who had several teams across the age groups, were particularly spirited. “It was fun to compete against them and watch the camaraderie occur,” he says. “When you have a tragedy like this—you may compete on the field, but you’re all family.”