A charter bus carrying a US college baseball team from Ohio plunged off a motorway ramp today and slammed into the pavement below, killing six people and injuring 29, authorities said.
The bus, carrying the team from Bluffton University, a Mennonite-affiliated school south of Toledo, toppled off a bridge and onto a pickup truck on Interstate 75, a major motorway, police spokesman Joe Cobb said.
“It looked to me like a big slab of concrete falling down,” said 57-year-old Danny Lloyd, whose truck was struck by the falling bus.
“I didn’t recognise it was a bus. I think when I saw the thing coming, I think I closed my eyes and stepped on the gas.”
The impact broke his windshield, pushed his truck into the concrete and wrecked the front bumper, Lloyd said. He was not injured.
Four students, the bus driver and the bus driver’s wife were killed, said police Major Calvin Moss.
Nineteen students – three in critical condition – were being treated at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Dr Leon Haley said.
He said all but two students were awake and talking Friday morning, and doctors were checking them for broken bones.
The ten others were taken to two other hospitals, Haley said. Officials at the three hospitals said 28 of the 29 people being treated were of college age.
The other person, the team’s 29-year-old coach, was in serious condition and expected to improve.
“This is a profound and tragic day in the life of Bluffton University,” Bluffton President James Harder told reporters in Ohio, adding that classes were cancelled, as were other sports trips planned for next week’s spring break.
“We know these people on a first-name basis,” he said. “For now we’re pulling together and supporting each other as best we can.”
Firefighters pulled people through the roof of the bus, which was on its side. There was blood on the overpass near where the bus went over.
Cobb said the bus driver may have mistaken an exit ramp for a lane. It was dark at the time, but the weather was clear.
Calls to the charter company, Executive Coach Luxury Travel Inc., of Ottawa, Ohio, were not immediately returned.
A university spokeswoman, Jill Duling, confirmed the bus that crashed was carrying the team, but said she could not provide any other information.
On campus students and residents of the community began filling the seats in the school’s basketball gym to grieve together and learn more about what had happened. Some wiped away tears as they came in.
The team was scheduled to play in Fort Myers, Florida, this weekend.