Niece of woman killed in DeSoto County tour bus crash: ‘She was my heart’

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A group of traumatized people are heading home from the hospital a day after their tour bus flipped on an icy Mississippi highway.

The shock from the awful tour bus crash is nowhere close to wearing. off. Two people were killed and 44 were hurt.

Police identified the deceased victims as Betty Russell, 76, and Cynthia Hardin, 61.

We spoke with Russell's heartbroken niece over the phone.

"I just hollered over the phone and cried for my auntie. She was a sweet person. She was actually my best friend. She was my heart. Everybody loved my auntie."

She's grieving for her aunt but also breathing a sigh of relief. That's because six more of her relatives were on that bus.

"I seen the pictures of how close that bus was to the embankment by the bridge, and I'm like 'Oh my God," she said. "They all could have died. Everyone could have died."

The bus was headed westbound on I-269 when passengers say it swerved and flipped.

The injured split up among different hospitals. Many have since been released, but at least three are in critical condition.

The bus was headed from Huntsville to the casinos in Tunica. Russell's niece says her relatives were just trying to have fun.

She says her family makes the trip all the time but she never thought something like this would happen.

The Mississippi Highway Patrol is till investigating the cause of the crash. But says icy weather definitely played a part.

The bus belongs to Teague VIP Express. The company took 16 people from Baptist-DeSoto Hospital back to Huntsville on Thursday.

Russell's niece and her relatives will never be the same.

"Man, after this I'll never get on that bus."

After we've reported, federal records show no crashes for Teague in the last two years. The company was cited for 15 violations in 2017 for things like a broken wheel.

Any problem buses were thankfully taken out of service.