Three Tanzanian school children who survived a disastrous bus crash in their country in May that killed 32 of their classmates and three adults were found to have had 17 fractures and multiple other injuries.
They arrived at Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City, Iowa, for treatment through the work of Franklin Graham’s relief and development group Samaritan’s Purse and the Iowa-based Siouxland Tanzania Education Medical Ministries, or STEMM. The marathon rescue effort included special FAA permission for a jet operated by Samaritan’s Purse to fly for 24 hours using two separate crews.
“Sadhia and Wilson are now walking independently and making great progress in rehabilitating their upper-extremity injuries,” said Dr. Steve Meyer, a Sioux City orthopedic surgeon at the hospital. “Doreen, who arrived in critical condition and was paralyzed from the waist down, miraculously walked for the first time last week.”
The three were taken to a local semi-pro baseball game on July 4 and threw out the first pitch as “cheers rained down from the crowd,” according to a Samaritan’s Purse report.
“God has touched these kids,” Meyer said in the report. “After seeing how these three were when they arrived in May, and now just over six weeks later, this is absolutely phenomenal and transformational.”
They found the three injured students, stabilized them and got them moved to a hospital. But when it became clear their treatment would be better provided in the U.S., the ministry sought and obtained permission from Tanzania for the children to travel.
The ministry leaders, however, were faced with the prospect of hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses to transport the three.
Then Meyer’s phone rang. It was Franklin Graham, asking, “How can we help you?”
Meyer’s friend, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, had called Graham and asked for help.
The children had been on their way to another school to take an exam when the crash happened, and Tanzania President John Magufuli called it a national tragedy.
Tens of thousands were at a memorial service for the 35 victims, and STEMM officials said it seemed as if the entire nation turned out to see off the three survivors.
Meyer said the children will be in physical therapy for some time and will stay with volunteer Iowa hosts. They also will receive counseling for emotional trauma.
Meyer said the story “is going viral” across Tanzania.
“It’s been baffling to many Tanzanians, some of whom are Muslims, why these Americans were willing to help save these children. It’s been a ray of light in this tragic event where God gave us a tremendous opportunity to share Jesus’ love and to help them understand what the Gospel really means.”
Al Jazeera reported May 6 the crash killed students from the Lucky Vincent school in Arusha.
The bus veered off a steep road in rainy conditions near the town of Karatu and plunged into a river, Al Jazeera said.
Meyer recounted sharing the treatment plans with the children’s parents.
The father of the 12-year-old, a devout Muslim, simply asked, “Why? Why? Why?”
“Well, the God we serve reached out to Samaritans, Gentiles and it didn’t matter. That’s what we do,” he told WND he responded.
The injuries were not minor: legs fractured, a head injury, nerve injuries, a fractured jaw, spine fractures, broken shoulder, broken legs and elbow dislocations.
STEMM already had put 10,000 children in school in the region, arranged for 1,000 medical operations over the years, and delivered instruction on farming and building bridges, roads and wells, the organization reports.
See news video of the scene: