BALTIMORE -- A school bus, blocks away from its first stop Tuesday morning, rear-ended a car, then ricocheted off a roadside pillar into an oncoming commuter bus in a crash that killed at least six people and injured 10, authorities said.
Baltimore police say both drivers were among the six people killed when a school bus with no children aboard smashed into the side of a commuter bus.
Police spokesman T.J. Smith told a news conference Tuesday that the school bus driver was a 67-year old man. The commuter bus driver was a 33-year-old woman.
Smith says the four other people killed at the scene early Tuesday morning were aboard the Maryland Transit Administration bus. Ten people were injured, two of them critically.
“It literally looks like a bomb exploded in the bus. It’s catastrophic damage,” Smith said.
Smith says investigators have recovered some recording equipment from one of the buses that he believes contains video and possibly data. He says it’s not clear what condition it’s in.
The only other occupant of the school bus, an aide, was taken to a hospital, as were the car driver and eight people from the commuter bus, Smith told a news conference.
He said one survivor was in critical condition, one was in serious condition and eight had injuries that were not considered serious.
National Transportation Safety Board investigator Jennifer Morrison says her team has begun looking at the vehicles and crash scene. She expects their work to continue through the week.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis characterized riders on the No. 10 MTA bus as workers traveling on a route from Dundalk, a largely blue-collar community southeast of Baltimore, toward Catonsville, a western suburb.
“They’re on their way to make a living, they’re on their way to the job and they’re on their way to support their families,” Davis said, “Our hearts and prayers go out to them, to their families, to their co-workers as well.”
The school bus first hit a silver Ford Mustang, crushing its rear and forcing its nose into the pavement. Then it hit a pillar at a cemetery entrance hundreds of feet down the street. Veering across the center line, the yellow school bus slammed into the front driver side of the MTA bus, ending about 100 yards from the pillar.
The school bus raked the side of the commuter bus, ending with its front end buried toward the back of the MTA vehicle.
CBS Baltimorespoke with a witness who came upon the crash shortly after it happened. He described trying to free an injured woman before emergency workers arrived on the scene, saying there was glass all over her. He and another man lifted the front windshield off of her but they could not get her out of the bus.
The wreck peeled back metal and exposed a tangle of metal and human limbs, according to a passing motorist who stopped to help, Michael Feldman. He told WJZ-TV that the MTA driver appeared to be in very bad shape; authorities have not said if that driver survived.
Smith noted a lack of skid marks at the crash scene on Frederick Avenue near Loudon Park Cemetery, leading to what he called a working theory that the school bus driver had suffered a medical emergency.
Firefighters were still working their way through the wreckage of the commuter bus more than two hours after the crash, which was reported at about 7 a.m., Baltimore Fire Chief Niles Ford said.
“This was a significant, significant wreck, so there are still portions of the bus that our people have not been able to fully access,” Ford told a morning news conference.
He said firefighters had to enter the school bus from the rear and cut out the seats to reach the driver and aide.
Some of the survivors suffered facial bone injuries and spinal injuries, said Dr. Deborah Stein at the University of University of Maryland Medical Center’s shock trauma unit in Baltimore.
The Rev. Mike Murphy said the crash sounded like “one loud thump” from his room in the rectory of nearby St. Joseph’s Monastery, a Catholic facility.
Murphy said the busy thoroughfare “gets kind of crazy at times.”
Doreen Downs, who lives nearby, heard the crash and saw the wreckage.
“It’s just horrible,” she said.
Smith characterized it as an accident investigation, not a crime-scene investigation, despite the presence of homicide detectives. Smith said they were called because they are accustomed to conducting death investigations.