• 'I just prayed.' Memphis brothers describe horrific bus crash involving OMYA football team

    By: Mearl Purvis

    Updated:

    More than two months have passed, but the nightmares remain for the young boys who were on a Memphis-bound bus that flipped in rural Arkansas.

    The night was December 3, 2018. The OMYA Elite youth football team was heading back to the Bluff City after an all-star game in Dallas.

    FOR A FULL STORY ON THE CRASH, CLICK HERE

    Some 250 youth football players, chaperones and coaches were in a caravan when one of the buses flipped over down an embankment.

    One child – Kameron Johnson – was killed. He was nine years old.

    45 other children were injured in the accident.

    Two of them were brothers: James and Jaylon. 

    James was in the seat behind Kameron. Jaylon was in the seat across from him.

    REPORT: Speeding, driver negligence led to crash involving Memphis youth football team

    That night changed the brothers forever.

    “When I closed my eyes, I just hear bumping…coaches scream…the first flip knocked me unconscious,” James told FOX13.

    When the bus came to a stop, one of the coaches was able to call 911. The dispatcher can be heard asking if someone is stuck inside the bus – the coach answers, “Yes. The kids…”

    FOX13’s Mearl Purvis asked James if he remembered when things started to go bad on the bus.

    “I just woke up and saw she was already going fast, so I just prayed,” the boy told FOX13.

    RELATED: Survivor of bus crash permanently loses sight in eye, doctors say

    James was battered and broken. His left femur was broken. His right hand was nearly cut off. Two of his fingers were broken. Nearly 30 staples were used to close the gash in his head. His humerus was broken.

    “My wrist was hanging like this, and I just saw my bone and skin hanging down. It was bleeding,” James said while describing injuries.


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    His brother Jaylon helped save one of their teammates.

    “When the bus flipped, he was about to go head first through the window. I caught him by his leg. I had pulled him back,” Jaylon described.

    RELATED: Boy trapped under bus, badly hurt during crash focused on getting back on field

    Charlotte Bell is the boys’ mother. Whether or not it was intuition is up to interpretation, but she felt something was wrong from the moment the bus departed.

    “The minute (the bus) pulled off from Texas, I started praying. I started praying and crying, and I didn’t know why,” Bell told FOX13. “I prayed for eight hours straight.

    Suddenly, she got a terrifying early morning phone call. She thinks it only took one and a half hours for what would have normally been a two-hour drive to the first hospital, Saline Memorial Hospital in Benton, Arkansas, to see her son Jaylon. 

    From there, she went to see James at Children’s Hospital in Little Rock.

    “He looked up and he said ‘Ma!’ I was like ‘Hey baby,’ and I was a little calm until I walked around and saw his head…and I lost it.”

    For this family, it has been a winding road. There prayers have been answered as the boys have continued to recover, but things have changed.

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