1 dead, dozens hurt in band bus crash

Hous­ton-area stu­dents hur­tle into ravine in Alabama; driver killed

The Dallas Morning News - - Front Page - FROM STAFF AND WIRE RE­PORTS

Mem­bers of a Hous­ton-area high school band are in­jured in a bus crash that killed the driver.

LOXLEY, Ala. — Lulled asleep by the hum­ming of their Texas-bound char­ter bus af­ter a trip to Dis­ney World, mem­bers of a Hous­ton-area high school band were jarred awake be­fore dawn Tues­day when the ve­hi­cle ran off a high­way and plunged into a deep ravine.

Driver Harry Caligone was killed, and about three dozen oth­ers were hurt, three se­ri­ously, au­thor­i­ties and the bus com­pany said.

The cause of the crash on In­ter­state 10 be­tween Mo­bile, Ala., and Pen­sacola, Fla., wasn’t known. But sur­vivors from Chan­nelview High School east of Hous­ton de­scribed be­ing asleep one mo­ment and tum­bling through the air the next.

Sopho­more Dewayne Ben­son, 15, bor­rowed a cell­phone to call his mother and tell her he was OK. He told Hous­ton sta­tion KTRK-TV by phone that he awoke to hear the band di­rec­tor re­peat­edly say “Harry” be­fore the bus hit some bumps fol­lowed by one “huge bump.”

“Some stu­dents were stuck un­der seats, some were on top of other stu­dents, and there’s a lot of panic to get peo­ple out,” said Dewayne, who was taken to a hospi­tal but wasn’t

in­jured. Stu­dents used cell­phones as lights to get out and grabbed blan­kets to help peo­ple out­side, he said.

First re­spon­ders used ropes to rap­pel down the more than 50-foot ravine in the mid­dle of I-10 and then had to cut some of the vic­tims from the wreck­age, said Bald­win County Sher­iff Huey Hoss Mack. Tem­per­a­tures were in the 40s when the crash oc­curred about 5:30 a.m.

Chan­nelview school district of­fi­cials said 40 stu­dents and six adults from the high school were on board. Med­i­cal of­fi­cials said at least 37 peo­ple, most of them teenagers, were treated at hos­pi­tals or other fa­cil­i­ties in Pen­sacola and south­west Alabama for in­juries that ranged from mi­nor to very se­ri­ous.

The sher­iff said it wasn’t im­me­di­ately clear what caused the bus to en­ter the grassy me­dian, which abruptly ends at a steep em­bank­ment where the in­ter­state passes over Cow­pen Creek. First Class Tours Inc., the bus op­er­a­tor, iden­ti­fied Caligone as a long­time driver with the com­pany.

An­gela Caligone, 58, of Hous­ton said her brother-in­law had been a bus driver for 20-plus years, the last 15 with the com­pany, and had “just passed his phys­i­cal with fly­ing col­ors.” She re­called him as “fun-lov­ing, car­ing, ded­i­cated to his job, ded­i­cated to his kids.”

Chan­nelview High’s grad­u­ates in­clude Univer­sity of Alabama quar­ter­back Jalen Hurts, who tweeted: “Wow, pray­ing for ev­ery­one in­volved! #Pray­forchan­nelview.”

Josh Torres said his 17-yearold sis­ter, Bianca Torres, was sit­ting at the rear of the bus when the im­pact tossed her for­ward sev­eral rows. She had pain in her legs and bruis­ing but was oth­er­wise un­hurt and taken to a hospi­tal for eval­u­a­tion, he said.

“All that she re­mem­bers is that she felt a bump, then a crash and then the bus flip- ping onto its side,” Torres said.

Torres said his brother, also a mem­ber of the Chan­nelview band, was on a sec­ond band bus that wasn’t in­volved in the ac­ci­dent. That bus stopped briefly and con­tin­ued on to Chan­nelview.

One hospi­tal, Sacred Heart Hospi­tal in Pen­sacola, re­ceived 19 pa­tients, the Hous­ton Chron­i­cle re­ported. Of those, four had se­ri­ous in­juries. Only hours be­fore the crash, the band’s Face­book page had been up­dated to show a large group pos­ing out­side Dis­ney World, where the band per­formed at a mu­sic fes­ti­val Satur­day.

Nor­man Haynes of Vic­to­ria said his daugh­ter, 18-yearold trum­pet player Mak­ena Campa, was headed home on the bus with her mother. He spoke with both of them af­ter the crash and was on his way to the hospi­tal.

“My daugh­ter was re­ally groggy be­cause they had her on some very heavy pain med­i­ca­tion,” he said. “They sounded kind of shook up. I think I’d be shook up as well.”

The bus char­ter com­pany pledged to help lo­cal au­thor­i­ties in­ves­ti­gat­ing the crash in a state­ment that also of­fered prayers for the in­jured and their fam­i­lies. The Fed­eral Mo­tor Car­rier Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion gives First Class Tours a sat­is­fac­tory rat­ing, mean­ing records show no ev­i­dence of sub­stan­tial non­com­pli­ance with safety re­quire­ments.

The agency’s records show that in the last two years, the car­rier had been in­volved in four crashes be­fore Tues­day’s, with one of those in­volv­ing a fa­tal­ity.

The in­ter­state was closed in both di­rec­tions for about 10 hours af­ter the ac­ci­dent.

Dan An­der­son/the As­so­ci­ated Press

The bus car­ry­ing 40 stu­dents from Chan­nelview High School and six adults crashed into a ravine off In­ter­state 10 be­fore dawn Tues­day. First re­spon­ders used ropes to rap­pel down, then had to cut some of the vic­tims from the wreck­age.

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