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NCTC Softball Players Killed, Driver Says He was Distracted

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GAINESVILLE -- Pictures and memories provide little comfort to a collegiate community and four families coping with an immeasurable loss.

On Friday night, four young women from North Central Texas College died when their team bus was hit by an 18-wheeler in Oklahoma.

19-year-old Megan Richardson from Wylie  was among those killed. At Wylie High School, flowers and condolences adorn a campus where the star player once attended.

Richardson and her teammates were traveling back to campus from a game when the accident happened. Investigators say 53-year-old Russell Staley from Saginaw was driving the rig when it veered off the road, crossed the median and slammed into the team’s bus.

“We are categorizing this as a homicide investigation and we’ll be presenting our report to the district attorney in the next 8-10 weeks,” Capt. Ronnie Hampton with Oklahoma Highway Patrol said.

Capt. Hampton tells NewsFix  Staley told investigators he was distracted inside his cab. Hampton says Staley’s statement will be used as evidence in their investigation.

The National Transportation Safety Board dispatched agents from Washington, D.C. and Dallas-Fort Worth to assist in the investigation.

“As a parent of a daughter in college, I realize -- we all realize -- that this is truly a parent’s worst nightmare,” Robert Sumwalt with NTSB said. “Our goal, our entire reason for being here, is to prevent things like this from happening again.”

Related: North Central Texas College Loses 4 Softball Players in Deadly Bus Crash

A close-knit campus was devastated by a horrific tragedy. The North Central Texas College community,  home to just under 2,500 students, is struggling with the loss of four of its star softball players.

“This is the most traumatic event that NCTC has ever had in its 90 years of history,” NCTCC President Dr. Brent Wallace said.

"This is indeed a sad day for these families and for North Central Texas College. We encourage your prayers for all these young ladies and families, and those who have lost loved ones.”

The 15 students and their Athletic Director were headed back to campus Friday night, following a game in Oklahoma. Authorities say an 18-wheeler crossed the median, and smashed straight into their bus. The accident happened just south of Oklahoma City on Interstate-35.

Good Samaritans jumped into action and tried save those trapped in the wreckage.

"There's a girl that was, she was in her seat and the bus came on top of her, on top of her head," one unidentified man said of his attempt to help free the girls. "When I got into the bus, she had a pulse for about two or three minutes and we were trying to use a jack to get the bus up. Before we could get the jack up enough to get her head out, we lost the pulse."

Among the deceased: 19-year-old Megan Richardson from Wiley, 20-year -old Brooke Deckard, and 20-year-old Jaiden Pelton.

The youngest victim -- 18-year-old Katelynn Woodlee. She was a promising young athlete seen on YouTube hitting a two-run homer.

A picture posted on Katelynn’s Twitter page showed her and some of her teammates on the bus just hours before that deadly crash. Several other girls were also injured and are being treated at area hospitals.

Condolences and messages for prayers have since flooded social media; Tweets and Facebook posts reflect the pain and emotion felt by so many in the Lion community and across North Texas.