VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) - Early Tuesday morning, 27-year-old Christian Montes left his home in Virginia Beach and headed to work at Naval Station Norfolk. He was just two miles from home and his family when his life tragically came to an end.
Tonya Borman with the Virginia Beach Police Department said around 6:45 a.m., a school bus crashed into Montes and his vehicle at the intersection of South Independence Boulevard and Holland Road.
Investigators believe Montes was outside of his Ford Escort when he was struck; Borman said his car was disabled and he had stopped in the northbound lane of Holland Road and gotten out to see what was wrong. Montes died at the scene.
Police confirm Montes was active duty Navy and friends and family confirm he was based at Naval Station Norfolk. Navy personnel said a male sailor assigned to Commander, Submarine Squadron Six -- which is headquartered in Norfolk -- was the victim of a tragic accident Tuesday morning in Virginia Beach. However, the Navy would not confirm if the sailor was Montes, as they have not confirmed notification of the sailor's next of kin, yet.
"This morning [Chris’] wife was concerned something was going on and she contacted my wife," said Montes family friend Andy Price. "It wasn't till late this morning that they got the official word."
Friends and family are remembering Montes as a man who put his family first.
"Chris absolutely adored his family," said Price. "He loved his wife dearly. They have a newborn son and a three-year-old daughter who absolutely loved him."
Images from the scene showed Virginia Beach City school bus #66 was involved in the crash. Borman said the bus was headed to Bayside High School.
According to Jennifer McCarrel with Virginia Beach Public Schools, 35 students were on the bus at the time of the crash.
"I was like just sitting there doing my homework and then I looked up and my friend started yelling 'slow down, slow down!' So I looked up and then my head bumped into the seat in front of me. And then I saw smoke from the window," Catherine Delacruz, a student on the bus told WAVY News' Don Roberts.
"I was sleeping on the bus and my head was on the window, and I hit the window and then the back of my bookbag," Macy, another student on the bus added. "I heard people yelling and that there was a man under the bus."
24 of those students were transported to Bayside High School on a replacement bus with an assistant principal aboard. Seven students were taken to Sentara Princess Anne Hospital and four were taken to Sentara Independence Hosptial, according to Dale Gauding with Sentara Healthcare.
Gauding said the students at Sentara Princess Anne were in the minor care area, some complaining of headaches and one complaining of neck pain.
When asked about the bus driver, two students only conveyed sympathy.
"He started hugging some of us," Catherine said of the driver. "And I felt really bad for him, ‘cause he's one of the nicest bus drivers." Macy agreed.
Borman said the cause of the crash is still being investigated, but speed was not a factor. On Wednesday, Borman said investigators were still interviewing witnesses. After they are complete, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and investigators will determine if charges will be filed against the bus driver. The Commonwealth's Attorney told WAVY.com the meeting with investigators will likely happen on Friday, at the earliest.
While many unknowns about the crash remain unanswered, Price said Montes’ family and friends try to take solace from his faith.
“They are in shock. [It’s] just a flood of emotions, and they are trying to figure things out,” Price said. “We’re thankful we know Chris was active in his church, loved Christ, and we know where he is from now on.”
Eric Sanzone is a pastor at Grace Bible Church, where Montes was an active member. On Wednesday, the community was planning a funeral and trying to comfort his family.
“It's a horrible tragedy and a loss for Nicole and her family and really for our whole community,” Sanzone said. “He loved his wife and his kids. His little 3-year-old daughter is trying to process what this means. But, he loved her, and she knew that. He's a guy who's gonna be missed. He's one of the good guys.”
Price said a "Christian Montes Memorial Fund" with Navy Federal Credit Union. The contributions to the fund will go toward his children's education and can be made at any Navy Federal Credit Union location with the designation code 7454257.
Northbound traffic on Holland Road was rerouted to South Plaza Trail for several hours until the scene was cleared.
Police urged students’ parents to go to the high school instead of the scene of the crash to meet their children.
As students arrived at Bayside High School, they were allowed to call their parents or have the school do so for them. Just nine students stayed at school and attended classes while the rest were picked up by their parents.
McCarrel said a crisis response team will be at the school Wednesday to provide support for students if needed.
Stay with WAVY.com for more on this developing story.
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