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A school bus crash on an Alabama interstate early Tuesday morning left the driver dead and injured numerous passengers, according to news reports. The bus was one of two carrying a Houston-area high school band home after a visit to Disney World in Orlando, FL.
The Channelview Independent School District in suburban Houston confirmed that 40 children and six adults representing Channelview High School were the passengers on the bus.
At 5:33 a.m., the bus was headed west on Interstate 10 when it careened near the highway median and ended up in a 50-foot ravine, the Alabama Highway Patrol said in a statement.
Helicopters and ambulances took the injured to three hospitals in Mobile, AL, and Pensacola, FL, as well as a free-standing emergency room in rural Baldwin County.
Twenty of the injured were sent to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola. Officials said 16 have been discharged. Of the four still hospitalized, two are listed as being in serious condition and two as good condition.
Officials also said one person was treated and released from Baptist Hospital in Pensacola.
Families in Texas wishing to get information about a family member at Sacred Heart can call (850) 416-2694 or (850) 416-2540.
School bus crash:
Bus company statement
The bus company, First Class Tours of Houston, identified Harry Caligone as the driver of the bus. The company released a statement regarding the crash:
“A serious accident has taken place involving a First Class Tours bus in Alabama this morning. The bus was carrying a group of band students from Channelview High School who were returning home to Houston from Orlando.
“Regrettably, the accident has taken the life of the driver of the bus, Harry Caligone. Harry was a long-time driver for our company and we are deeply saddened for this loss. We offer our heartfelt condolences to his family.
“It is our understanding that there are additional injuries as a result of the accident. Our prayers are with the injured and their families at this time.
“We pledge our assistance in cooperating with local authorities in the investigation.
“Presently, this is all the information that we have to share. We will provide updates as additional information becomes available and it is appropriate to do so.”
Pensacola’s WKRG-TV reported that, according to safety records, the bus company has been involved in four crashes in the past two years.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating.
School bus crash:
A heartbreaking week
The school bus crash in Alabama is the latest involving “school-transportation-related” vehicles making headlines across the United States in the past week:
- On Monday, a school van carrying seven students home from school collided with a semi-truck near Benson, MN, injuring all seven students and the driver. The van driver reportedly failed to yield at an intersection. Three students – 16-year-olds Gaige Sanderson and Harleigh Schlief and 14-year-old Savannah Schlief, all of Danvers – are still listed in critical condition as of this morning.
- On Saturday night, 11 people were treated at CentraCare Health in Monticello, MN, after a bus crash on I-94 near St. Michael. The hospitalized include the driver as well as coaches and players with the women’s basketball team from Highland Community College in Freeport, IL. A hospital spokesperson said all 11 were treated for minor injuries and were released within a few hours.
School bus crash:
Generally very safe
U.S. drivers were involved in 340,039 fatal motor vehicle crashes from 2004 to 2013, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Of those incidents, only 1,214 – or a mere four-tenths of 1 percent – were classified as school-transportation-related. Those are crashes involving a school bus or other vehicle functioning as a school bus that was transporting children to or from school or school-related activities.
The NHTSA reported that approximately 134 people die in school-vehicle-related crashes yearly. Of those, only 8 percent (about 11) are a passenger on the bus. Pedestrians, bicyclists and others outside the bus account for 21 percent of fatalities.
Once a bus leaves for its destination, a child is – statistically speaking – safer inside the vehicle than outside it: Of the 327 school-age children killed in school-transportation-related crashes since 2004, only 54 (16 percent) were children riding in buses. The NHTSA found that accidents involving these vehicles are almost three times as deadly for occupants of the other vehicles.