Bus driver dies, stu­dents hurt in Dis­ney trip crash

Texas school band on bus that plunged into ravine on I-10.

The Palm Beach Post - - NATION - By As­so­ci­ated Press

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

One per­son died, driver Harry Caligone, and about three dozen oth­ers were hurt, six se­ri­ously, au­thor­i­ties and the bus com­pany said. In­ter­state 10 was blocked for hours where the ac­ci­dent oc­curred be­tween Mo­bile, Alabama, and Pen­sacola.

The cause of the crash wasn’t im­me­di­ately known, but sur­vivors from Chan­nelview High School in metro Hous­ton de­scribed be­ing asleep one mo­ment and tum­bling through the air the next.

Stu­dent DeWayne Ben­son, 15, told KTRK-TV by tele­phone he awoke to hear the band di­rec­tor re­peat­edly say, “Harry” be­fore the bus hit a se­ries of 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 Ben­son, 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. Tem­per­a­tures were in the 40s at the time of the wreck, which hap­pened around 5:30 a.m.

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.

The Chan­nelview In­de­pen­dent School District said 40 stu­dents and six adults from the 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.

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 of the wreck tossed her for­ward sev­eral rows. She had pain in her legs and bruis­ing but was oth­er­wise un­scathed 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 flip­ping onto its side,” Tor­res said.

The in­ter­state was closed down in both di­rec­tions as the in­jured were flown to hos­pi­tals in­clud­ing emer­gency rooms in Mo­bile and Pen­sacola, plus a free-stand­ing emer­gency room in ru­ral Bald­win County, said Chris El­liott, a Bald­win County com­mis­sioner.

“Every­body is be­ing trans­ferred to a hospi­tal to at least be checked out,” said El­liott.

Tor­res said his brother, also a mem­ber of the Chan­nelview band, was on an­other bus not in­volved in the ac­ci­dent. That bus stopped af­ter re­al­iz­ing what hap­pened but did not al­low the stu­dents to get off, and even­tu­ally con­tin­ued on to Chan­nelview, a Hous­ton sub­urb of about 38,000. It ar­rived at the high school there Tues­day af­ter­noon with a po­lice es­cort. The bus drove past a throng of reporters and into a part of the cam­pus out of public view. 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, Texas, said his daugh­ter, 18-year-old 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 of­fered prayers for 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. Fed­eral Mo­tor Car­rier Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion records show that in the last two years, the car­rier has been in­volved in four crashes prior to Tues­day’s crash, with one of those one in­volv­ing one fa­tal­ity. The pre­vi­ous crash in­volv­ing a fa­tal­ity took place in May in Hous­ton, when a bus failed to yield the right of way as it turned left and fa­tally struck a pedes­trian in a cross­walk, ac­cord­ing to a po­lice re­port.

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