12 church­go­ers die when shut­tle bus hits truck

The Dominion Post - - World -

UNITED STATES: A small shut­tle bus car­ry­ing Texas church mem­bers home from a re­treat col­lided head-on with a pickup truck, killing 12 peo­ple and in­jur­ing three oth­ers yes­ter­day on a two-lane high­way in south­west­ern Texas, of­fi­cials said.

All of the dead were adults who at­tended First Bap­tist Church of New Braun­fels, Texas. Four­teen adults were on the bus and the driver was the only per­son in the pickup when the ve­hi­cles col­lided about 12.30pm on US 83 out­side Gar­ner State Park. The area is about 120km west of San An­to­nio.

Sergeant Con­rad Hein said two other bus pas­sen­gers and the pickup driver were in­jured and hos­pi­talised.

It was not im­me­di­ately clear what caused the col­li­sion about 190km from the church, where the mem­bers were headed.

The Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board has sent in­ves­ti­ga­tors to the scene, NTSB spokesman Terry Wil­liams said.

Pho­tos and video of the crash’s af­ter­math showed heavy dam­age to the front driv­ers’ sides of both ve­hi­cles where it ap­peared the two had col­lided. The back of the bus was up on a guardrail, with glass and de­bris scat­tered onto the grass be­low.

Hein said the small bus was a 2004 Tur­tle Top, though he did not know the spe­cific model. Tur­tle Top’s web­site fea­tures shut­tle buses with ca­pac­i­ties rang­ing from 17 to 51 pas­sen­gers, which they bill as ``a great al­ter­na­tive to the stan­dard 15-pas­sen­ger van’'.

Safety con­cerns have long sur­rounded the 15-pas­sen­ger vans, also fre­quently used by churches and other groups, with ad­vo­cates say­ing they can be dif­fi­cult to con­trol in an emer­gency.

Church of­fi­cials said in a state­ment on the First Bap­tist web­site that the mem­bers were re­turn­ing from a three-day re­treat at the Alto Frio Bap­tist En­camp­ment in Leakey, about 15km north of where the crash hap­pened.

The church of­fi­cials were ``min­is­ter­ing to fam­ily mem­bers to help them deal with this tragedy’', ac­cord­ing to the state­ment. Coun­sel­lors also were sched­uled to be avail­able to­day at the church.

Texas Gov­er­nor Greg Ab­bott of­fered his con­do­lences in the hours af­ter the crash.

``We are sad­dened by the loss of life and our hearts go out to all those af­fected,’' he said.

``We thank the first re­spon­ders work­ing on the scene in the wake of this unimag­in­able tragedy, and ask that all Tex­ans join us in of­fer­ing their thoughts and prayers.’'

– AP

PHOTO: REUTERS

A still im­age of aerial video shows an ac­ci­dent scene in­volv­ing a Texas church bus car­ry­ing se­nior cit­i­zens which crashed head-on with an­other ve­hi­cle about 130km west of San An­to­nio, Texas.

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