CLOSINGS: View Closings

Driver killed, Texas students hurt in Disney trip bus plunge

MGN Online

A bus carrying high school band members home to Texas from Disney World ran off a highway and plunged into a deep ravine Tuesday in Alabama, killing the driver and injuring dozens, authorities said.

Posted: Mar 13, 2018 9:25 AM
Updated: Mar 13, 2018 12:50 PM

UPDATE: This article has been updated to include the latest information from the Associated Press.

LOXLEY, Ala. (AP) — A bus carrying high school band members home to Texas from Disney World ran off a highway and plunged into a deep ravine Tuesday in Alabama, killing the driver and injuring dozens, authorities said.


First responders used ropes to rappel down the 50-foot ravine in the middle of Interstate 10 and then had to cut some of the victims from the wreckage, said Baldwin County Sheriff Huey Hoss Mack.

About 45 people were on the bus, the sheriff said. The driver was killed, said Capt. John Malone, who commands state troopers in the Mobile district. 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, medical officials said.

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. The crash happened at about 5:30 a.m., crunching the bus and leaving the passengers exposed to chilly temperatures.

Rescuers used every piece of equipment on every truck to reach them, Mack said: "This is what we call an all-out."

Josh Torres said his 17-year-old 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.

Frances Dodson-Benson said her 15-year-old son DeWayne Benson, a sophomore who plays bass clarinet, used a borrowed phone to tell her he was OK. Dodson-Benson said her son was sleeping when he was awakened by the bus hitting "some sort of hard bumps."

"Then there was a loud, really huge crash that was presumably when the bus finally came to a stop," she said. "There were students on top of students, the bags, it was just a disarray, a lot of commotion, a lot of panic."

Jesus Tejeda came upon the scene as he drove to work, finding dozens of police cars and ambulances stopped on the highway near the overpass. He looked down to see the bus lying on its side near the base of a concrete embankment, its front end crumpled.

Tejeda said he watched four people being removed from the wreckage, and couldn't hear any yelling or sounds of panic. "Thank God they were alive but (they) had to take them on (a) helicopter," he said in an interview conducted by instant messages.

Norman Haynes of Victoria, Texas said his daughter, 18-year-old trumpet player Makena Campa, was 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 interstate was closed down in both directions as the injured were flown to hospitals including emergency rooms in Mobile and Pensacola, Florida, 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 toward Channelview, a Houston suburb of about 38,000.

Outside their high school, still closed for spring break, police were stationed at every entrance and no one was available to speak.

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 on Saturday.

Channelview Independent School District spokesman Mark Kramer said the district had only limited details in the immediate aftermath and was in contact with law enforcement in Alabama to get more information.

The bus charter company, First Class Tours of Houston, pledged to help local authorities investigating the crash in a statement that offered prayers for injured and their families.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 482902

Reported Deaths: 9425
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison33063488
Hinds31021589
DeSoto30610358
Jackson23687348
Rankin21340370
Lee14909220
Madison14166271
Jones13404227
Forrest13160240
Lauderdale11601305
Lowndes10443176
Lamar10214130
Pearl River9098221
Lafayette8241137
Hancock7514112
Washington7102150
Oktibbeha6964124
Monroe6514164
Neshoba6475201
Warren6464164
Pontotoc630393
Panola6250126
Marshall6126123
Bolivar6115144
Union574186
Pike5613136
Alcorn537290
Lincoln5303131
George471472
Scott459196
Leflore4476140
Prentiss446779
Tippah446480
Itawamba4444100
Adams4416116
Tate4394101
Simpson4335112
Wayne433066
Copiah431787
Yazoo423386
Covington415792
Sunflower4148104
Marion4099104
Leake397586
Coahoma3957100
Newton370875
Grenada3556104
Stone350860
Tishomingo336289
Attala325387
Jasper314162
Winston304691
Clay296473
Chickasaw287065
Clarke282190
Calhoun266141
Holmes262187
Smith250649
Yalobusha221047
Tallahatchie220450
Walthall211058
Greene209045
Lawrence206833
Perry199953
Amite198452
Webster196542
Noxubee178939
Montgomery172454
Jefferson Davis168342
Carroll162137
Tunica153334
Benton142535
Kemper138640
Choctaw127026
Claiborne126834
Humphreys126637
Franklin116728
Quitman103926
Wilkinson101936
Jefferson91333
Sharkey63020
Issaquena1926
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 789054

Reported Deaths: 14022
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1115991765
Mobile708511234
Madison49865633
Shelby36274315
Baldwin36242495
Tuscaloosa33931548
Montgomery33190678
Lee22680220
Calhoun21211410
Morgan19816335
Etowah19300462
Marshall17680274
Houston16823386
St. Clair15442305
Cullman14602258
Limestone14581188
Elmore14480264
Lauderdale13520281
Talladega12958236
DeKalb12199237
Walker10588330
Blount9720157
Autauga9667137
Jackson9385158
Coffee8882175
Dale8609173
Colbert8534184
Tallapoosa6673181
Escambia6591121
Covington6452167
Chilton6385144
Russell607255
Franklin5795101
Chambers5416134
Marion4800120
Dallas4705189
Clarke463279
Pike462397
Geneva4413117
Winston425895
Lawrence4117108
Bibb409381
Barbour347270
Marengo326285
Monroe320053
Butler318290
Randolph305956
Pickens305274
Henry301858
Hale292685
Cherokee289855
Fayette279673
Washington245448
Crenshaw238470
Cleburne235851
Clay228565
Macon220158
Lamar197743
Conecuh182046
Lowndes170758
Coosa170235
Wilcox159736
Bullock149243
Perry136537
Sumter124536
Greene121443
Choctaw73427
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 68°
Columbus
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 66°
Oxford
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 66°
Starkville
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 64°
Little bits and pieces of low pressure move back into our area over the next several days. This will bring back into our weather forecast some more chances for some isolated to scattered showers and thunderstorms.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather