BOSTON (CBS/AP) – Authorities have identified the Philadelphia driver who was operating a bus that struck an overpass in Boston, injuring dozens aboard (read related story).
Massachusetts police say 66-year-old Samuel J. Jackson was operating the bus Saturday night that was carrying a group of high school students and their adult chaperones who had visited Harvard University. 35 people were injured in the crash, Massachusetts state police said. One remained hospitalized in critical condition, four were in stable condition, one was in serious condition and one was awaiting discharge on Sunday night, they said.
Authorities say the bus did not belong on the road, where a 10-foot height limit is in place and oversized vehicles are not authorized. Ray Talmedge, owner of the Philadelphia-based Calvary Coach Bus company, said Jackson looked down at his GPS and saw the bridge too late.
Police say no charges have been filed. A phone number listed for Jackson rang unanswered Sunday. The driver was not injured.
The Calvary Coach bus was carrying 42 people and was heading back to the Philadelphia area when it struck an overpass on Soldier’s Field Road in Boston, a major crosstown road, at around 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Massachusetts State Police said. Some passengers were trapped for more than an hour as rescue crews worked to free them.
It was a nerve-wracking 45 minutes for Lisette Tramel, between the time she learned the bus her 16-year-old son was on had crashed in Boston and the time he called to let her know he was all right.
“My son knows how I am. I get very nervous and I’m a wreck so he downplayed it a lot till I found out more information and I started calling around to see what hospital he was at because they were split up between four different hospital.” Tramel says her son suffered back injuries.
The students were part of a Destined for a Dream Foundation group, Talmedge said. Officials with the Bristol, Pa.-based group, a nonprofit that helps underprivileged youth, refused to comment on the crash when reached by phone.
The group’s Facebook page said the trip to Harvard was to “visit the campus, sit with the office of cultural advancement, followed by a tour of the campus … followed by Harvard Square (shopping, eating, site seeing…etc…) This should be a fun time for all!”
None of those injured was identified, and state police said they did not know how many of the injured were adults and how many were juveniles.
The Red Cross says at least three of the most seriously-injured students will have to remain in Boston for an extended period. Spokeswoman Kat Power says the organization is providing assistance for their families.
“They’re going to be meeting with families, making sure that these families are able to focus on the immediate needs of their loved one. We’re working with the bus company and with Boston EMS to make sure the families have a place to stay, that they have some dinner tonight and that they’re ready to focus on the needs of their children,” Power explains.
She says part of the assistance includes mental health services.
“The disaster mental health team is there not only to work with the passengers themselves but with their families as they arrive. This is a very difficult time. a number of passengers on the bus were teenagers. This may be very confusing and we’re there to offer a shoulder, an ear and a helping hand,” says Power.
The bus suffered significant damage in the crash. The front part of the roof was pushed in while the center section bowed downward. Photos posted on the Fire Department’s website showed firefighters standing on the top of the bus using boards to extract people. The last victim was freed from the bus around 9 p.m., according to the department.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority sent buses to pick up other passengers and get them out of the frigid temperatures.
Soldiers Field Road curves along the Charles River and passes by Harvard and Boston University. It is a major roadway to the Massachusetts Turnpike. The road was reopened Sunday after crews removed the bus and repaired guardrails.
The crash recalled a similar accident in Syracuse, N.Y., in 2010 when the driver of a double-decker Megabus missed his exit and was using a personal GPS to find the bus station. He passed 13 low-bridge warning signs, some with flashing yellow lights, before hitting an overpass. Four people were killed. The driver was acquitted of homicide charges.
In December, a driver who prosecutors said was nearly asleep at the wheel was acquitted of the most serious charges in a crash that killed 15 gamblers returning to New York City from a Connecticut casino in 2011.
Federal officials stepped up enforcement of bus safety regulations last year, closing more than two dozen operations that mostly ferry passengers in the busy East Coast transportation corridor. It was the largest single federal crackdown on the industry.
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