Police say 6 dead in Arkansas charter bus crash

Nov 6, 2015 9:45 AM by CBS/AP, Photo :KTHV

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- A charter bus ran off Interstate 40 and hit a bridge abutment on a foggy night in Arkansas, killing six people and injuring many others who were taken from the scene in ambulances.

Arkansas State Police said the crash occurred about 1 a.m. Friday. A heavy storm had recently passed through the area and left light rain and fog in its wake, but it wasn't immediately known if weather played a role. A news conference was planned for later Friday morning.

Photographs from CBS Little Rock affiliate KTHV showed the bus with nearly all its roof torn off, with most of the damage toward the rear of the vehicle.

Troopers said they received reports about a single-vehicle crash around 1 a.m. Traffic was snarled for hours but all debris and the bus were towed away before daybreak.

Pulaski County Coroner Gerone Hobbs confirmed the six fatalities to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper. He did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences said it received three patients at its hospital. Two were treated and released and a third was admitted to the hospital in fair condition, UAMS said.

The American Red Cross tended to eight people on the bus who were uninjured, Regional Communications Director Brigette Williams said. Williams said the company the eight worked for is putting them in an area hotel. Williams did not have any information about the name of the company or the type of work it did.

Williams said the Red Cross is providing mental health services for the survivors of the wreck.

"As you can imagine, people are pretty shaken by this," she said.

KTHV said on its Twitter feed Friday morning that the passengers were on a business trip. The station posted a photo showing a white bus with "Continental" in broad letters on the side being towed from the scene.

Jeff Lawson, who identified himself as the owner of Continental Charters in Detroit, told the Democrat-Gazette that he sold a bus Saturday to a man who "said he needed a second bus to haul people from (Detroit) to Texas... and Florida."

Lawson says that as part of the sale, he stipulated that the buyer remove the "Continental" lettering from the bus. He said Continental Charters did not have any scheduled routes in Arkansas on Thursday and does not regularly operate in the area.

The accident occurred along westbound Interstate 40 near its busy intersection with U.S. 67-167 in the Little Rock metropolitan area. The interchange is a bit tricky, requiring drivers to change lanes if they want to follow the route numbers that brought them into the area. They have about a minute to chart a course and execute it.

The National Transportation Safety Board was sending investigators to Arkansas to look into safety issues related to the crash, spokesman Eric Weiss said. Investigators will focus on driver fatigue and how passengers were protected, but may look into other issues once they get on the scene, he said.

"We are looking at different issues that may contribute to safety nationwide," Weiss said.


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