A charter tour bus crash in Alabama has left the driver dead and dozens of high school students and their adult chaperones injured.
Charter Tour Bus Crash Near Florida-Alabama Border
The charter tour bus crash occurred on the early morning of March 13, 2018. The bus was transporting forty Channelview High School band members and six adults back to Houston, TX, following a spring break trip to Disney World in Orlando, FL.
At approximately 5:30 a.m., the bus reportedly entered a grassy median. The median abruptly ends at a steep embankment when Interstate 10 passes over Cowpen Creek in Baldwin County, AL, less than ten miles west of the Florida-Alabama border. The bus left the roadway and plunged down a fifty-foot ravine, according to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.
The bus was owned and operated by First Class Tours. Its driver, Harry Caligone of Houston, died at the scene of the charter tour bus crash.
Another charter bus had also been transporting band students back to Houston at the time of the crash, but it was not involved in the incident and returned home safely that afternoon.
Bus Crushed Upon Impact
Two or three passengers had to be cut out of the vehicle because the bus was crushed upon impact, trapping students and staff inside. It took rescue workers approximately three hours to remove everyone from the charter tour bus crash.
Twenty crash victims were treated at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, FL. Fifteen of those patients were released that same day to await the arrival of family members, while five others remained hospitalized in serious condition.
Sixteen other teens were treated at various Infirmary Health locations in southern Alabama. As of 5:30 p.m. on the date of the crash, an estimated dozen total patients remained hospitalized.
Cause of Crash Unknown
The bus reportedly landed on its side, far below the pavement. Interstate 10 was closed in both directions to allow for the transport of injured passengers to area hospitals. Interstate 10 did not fully reopen for about ten hours following the incident, as crews worked to remove the wreckage from the ravine.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records show that First Class Tours has been involved in four other crashes in the past two years, one involving a death and three others without injuries. Mr. Caligone, who was reportedly a long-time driver with the company, was not involved in any of those crashes.
The National Transportation Safety Board is sending six employees to investigate the crash, according to officials, though the circumstances leading up to the incident remain uncertain.
“We don’t know what caused the bus to leave the roadway,” said Lt. Joe Piggott of the Alabama Highway Patrol.