Mississippi bus crash victims return home to Huntsville

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - There were few smiles on the faces of passengers aboard a Teague bus that returned to a shopping plaza off University Drive in Huntsville on Thursday, but perhaps being home will be a comfort to them as they continue to recover.

Teague's bus brought 16 victims of Wednesday's wreck in Mississippi, outside Memphis, from a hospital back home to the Tennessee Valley.

Huntsville Police asked WHNT cameras to hang back, and we obliged, keeping a respectful distance from the group as they unloaded and went their separate ways.

None of the victims aboard the Teague bus chose to speak with reporters about their experience. Police said they wanted to get home and rest.

It has been a harrowing few hours for loved ones, too, as they process the deaths of Cynthia Hardin and Betty Russell. Both women were killed as the bus, traveling toward Tunica, hit a patch of rough weather and somehow flipped on the interstate.

The name of the charter bus company is Teague VIP Express, located in Anniston.

Russell's niece spoke to WHNT News 19's sister station, WREG, in Memphis by phone.  She did not wish for her name to be revealed. She said for many of the passengers, it was a family trip they had taken before. Many on the bus were relatives. All were looking forward to a good time at the casinos.

She remembered Betty Russell: "We loved being around her. She'll keep you laughing."

She added, "She was a sweet person. She was actually my best friend. She was my heart. And everybody loved my Auntie."

Still, she is counting the blessings. 44 people were injured on the bus trip, surviving the journey.

"They all could have died," she stated.

For those who are back in Huntsville, there might be a tough road ahead in the recovery process. A handful of patients are still in the hospital in critical condition. But those back in Huntsville will be able to sleep in their own beds overnight.