IRVING (CBSDFW.COM) - Emergency crews responded to the scene of a overturned bus in Irving on Thursday morning. The incident happened shortly after 9:00 a.m. in the northbound lanes of the President George Bush Turnpike (State Highway 161), near Belt Line Road. No other vehicles were involved in the crash.
CBS 11 has confirmed two people onboard that bus have died, including 81-year-old Sue Taylor, who organized the trip and 69-year-old Paula Hahn of Ft. Worth. The Texas Department of Public Safety also says the bus was driven by Lloyd Rieve. The 65-year-old man was transported to Parkland Hospital, where he underwent surgery and is listed in serious condition.
"For an as yet undetermined reason, that motorcoach traveled off the right-hand side of the roadway and struck what's called an impact attenuator, those big rubber things that are on the side of the road," explained Sgt. Lonny Haschel with the Texas Department of Public Safety. "After it struck the impact attenuator, it went back across the lanes of traffic into a grassy area and struck the concrete median. It rode up on top of that concrete barrier and it rolled on its right-hand side, where it came to a rest."
Sgt. Lonnie Haschel
State Trooper Kyle Bradford said more than 30 people were on the bus when it crashed and at least one person was trapped in the wreckage. "There was one individual that was pinned in. That individual has since been removed, still trying to confirm condition of that individual," he explained. "We do know that the individual that was actually pinned in is very serious at this time."
At last estimate, a total of 42 passengers were injured and transported to area hospitals, including 15 victims taken to Parkland Hospital in Dallas by air ambulance. Hospital personnel there confirmed that four of those individuals arrived in critical condition. Of the patients admitted at Parkland 13 are female and two are male. The patients at Parkland range in age from 66 to 80-years-old.
Other bus passengers were transported by ground ambulance or Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) buses to hospitals in Irving and Dallas. At Baylor Medical Center at Irving, president Cindy Schamp confirmed that 13 patients were brought to the hospital, all with what she called "moderate injuries." Two other bus passengers are known to have been transported to Baylor Medical Center at Dallas. Their conditions aren't known.
"It was a pretty chaotic scene. There were a number of severe injuries when we first arrived," recalled Officer John Argumaniz with the Irving Police Department. "I don't think that you can ever prepare yourself for accidents like this."
Michael Rey with the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) confirmed that it was a private travel bus that crashed. The bus belongs to Cardinal Coach Line based out of Mansfield. The bus line operates five buses and employs seven drivers.
The charter was reportedly taking tourists to the Choctaw Casino in Durant, Oklahoma, just across the state border. On the Cardinal Coach website, the company claims that all bus drivers are "qualified under all the current State and Federal D.O.T. rules and regulations." The company has experienced no crashes within the past two years and has earned a 'satisfactory' safety rating. They have only been in business since March 2007.
Authorities from the Texas DPS, the Irving Police Department, the Irving Fire Department and DART are working on the scene, with the Texas DPS taking charge in the crash investigation. "In this case, we declared that mass casualty. We alerted the other agencies. We alerted area hospitals to be prepared to receive these patients," said Assistant Chief Rusty Wilson with the Irving Fire Department. "And so, all of that comes together in a mass casualty like this. So, it's critical."
Delivery truck driver Robert Pacheco witnessed the crash and was one of the first people to stop and render aid. He talked to KRLD's Mike Rogers about pulling the injured elderly passengers from the bus.
Citizen responder Robert Pacheco on 1080 KRLD
A hotline number has been established for relatives or friends wanting to find out about a passenger on the bus. To get specific information about loved ones believed to be traveling on the Cardinal Coach Line bus destined for Durant, Oklahoma -- call 972-721-INFO(4636).
Traffic on 161, in both directions, was shut down for hours. Just before 1 p.m. the southbound main lanes of the turnpike were re-opened. As of 4 p.m., the bus was pulled upright as wreckers prepared to take it away. Just after 5:00 p.m. one lane of the President George Bush Turnpike at Belt Line Rd. was re-opened. Check the traffic section for the latest traffic, alternate routes, and stay with CBSDFW.COM for the latest updates.
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