View Full Version : Tour bus falls off overpass in Atlanta, six killed

Otter Mii-kun
March 4th, 2007, 2:58 PM
From http://www.abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=2919210&page=1 :
A Community Mourns Fatal Bus Crash
Six Killed and 29 Injured as Bus Carrying a University Baseball Team Plunges Off an Atlanta Overpass

March 2, 2007 — - The close-knit community of Bluffton, Ohio, was in shock today, as parents, administrators and students woke up to the news that a bus carrying the local university's baseball team plummeted off an Atlanta overpass in a pre-dawn accident that killed six people and injured 29 others.

Thirty-three people, including the coaching staff from the Mennonite-affiliated school, located 50 miles southeast of Toledo, were on the bus when it plunged off Interstate 75 and landed on a pickup truck traveling below, according to Atlanta police spokesman Joe Cobb.

Among those killed were the bus driver, his wife and four students. The driver of the pickup truck was not injured.

Teresa Bauman's oldest son, Chris, a junior on the baseball team, was pinned underneath the bus when it fell off the overpass.

"All things considered he's very lucky. He was on the left hand side of the bus, using his book bag as a pillow. Somehow he wound up outside the bus, and the bus landed on his leg," Bauman told ABC News.

The accident happened at around 5:30 a.m., when the majority of students were asleep, recalled another injured student, 18-year-old A.J. Ramthun, during a press conference. He woke up when the bus hit the wall of the overpass. "I saw the road coming toward me," he said.

Ramthun, who was also seated on the left-hand side of the bus, the side that the bus landed on, had a number of cuts all over his face from the shattered glass. But he considered himself fortunate. "I was one of the lucky ones. My collarbone was broken, I got some stitches in my ears and the corners of both my eyes, my finger was ripped to the bone," he said.

His older brother Michael, he said, was trapped underneath the bus and injured his hip. "He might not recover," a distraught Ramthun told reporters.

The accident scene was orderly, with the team members helping one another other, according to Ramthun.

One of the players helped him to get out of the bus. "He told me we had to get out because there was gas everywhere," Ramthun recalled.

A spokesman for the Atlanta Fire Department said 55 firefighters responded to the scene. It took an hour to extricate the players from the bus.

The students were being examined for broken bones, and a few reportedly suffered head injuries and internal injuries, said Dr. Leon Haley of Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. Grady Memorial took 19 of the injured, while others were sent to Piedmont Memorial Hospital and Atlanta Medical Center in Atlanta.

A Strong Safety Record

The bus involved in the crash was one of five buses inspected by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration last Friday.

The agency said no "out-of-service violations" were found on the bus. An out-of-service violation can range from a problem with a brake line to a broken taillight.

The vehicle was owned and operated by the Georgia-based Executive Coach Luxury Travel Co.

The safety administration for the motor carrier said Executive Coach had a good safety record. Over the past two years, the company had no out-of-service violations on 20 vehicle inspections.

The National Transportation and Safety Board is currently investigating the accident.

NTSB investigators confirmed that there is a type of "black box" computer system onboard that will help them determine if the bus was speeding or if there were any other driving irregularities onboard.

Bluffton University's President James Harder said that it was common for the school to use chartered buses.

Trying to Be Positive

Relatives and friends of the injured students told ABC News that they learned of the accident through the morning news or phone calls received from the injured students.

Bauman said that she has been in cell phone communication with her son and his doctor since the accident, and recently learned that he will be taken into surgery to remove debris from his leg.

Kelly Soltus, the older sister of student Cody McPhereson, said he called his parents at 6:45 in the morning to let them know there was an accident.

"They left as soon as they were able to recover from the shock," Sultus said.

She has spoken to her brother, who injured his leg.

"He's alive and he's fine and we're grateful," she said.

Ryan Macchoukas said that his best friend, 20-year-old first baseman Greg Sigg, was still able to keep a sense of humor despite injuring his knee and breaking a bone in his face.

"He's still got his sense of humor. He got on the phone with me and the first thing he said was 'Hey Ryan, guess what, we made ESPN.' It's not that he's being insensitive or anything, but that's what he and the guys are talking about to try and keep their spirits up," Macchoukas said.

Greg and his teammates were enthusiastic about the prospect of a new season, according to Macchoukas.

"They had their best season ever last year, and [Greg] felt they would really do something this year," Macchoukas said.

An Academic Community in Mourning

Bluffton University's president told reporters that the small community of 1,150 students was in mourning.

"A few minutes ago in this auditorium, a gathering together of the Bluffton community came together. Every seat was filled. & This is deeply impacting all of our students and faculty and staff. We know these people on a first-name basis," said Harder.

He canceled classes Friday and said he has requested that the community remain on campus during spring break, which starts tomorrow.

Harder said the team was making its annual trip to Sarasota, Fla. The team was scheduled to play its first game of the season there as part of a double-header Saturday morning.

Harder has called off all athletic activities while the school handles the crisis. The school's athletic director and two other officials were en route to Atlanta.

The students taking it the hardest are the freshman members that were left behind.

Brent Fruchley's 19-year-old son Sam is a freshman on the team who couldn't go to spring training. Fruchley, who lives 20 miles from Bluffton and works in the town, heard the news at 7 a.m.

He drove directly to the school to pick up his son, who was in his dorm room, numb from shock, along with three other team members.

"It's a pretty tightknit school. It's small and they all know one another," Fruchley said. "He and the kids that didn't go [from the team] are in shock."

Teresa Bauman's younger son Brennan is also on Bluffton's baseball team. As a freshman, he had been competing for the last spot on the bus for spring training.

Frunchley said that he is not aware of any memorial services planned thus far.

"It's still early, everyone is pretty well numb over the whole thing," he said.

Support for the Victims

Offers of help have come pouring in, the school said.

"I have received, and this institution has received, offers of help from across the country," said Harder.

Bauman and her daughter will be flying to Atlanta courtesy of AirTran, which is offering free flights to family members of the injured students.

Macchaoukas, who rushed over to the home of his best friend's mother to help lend a hand, said he's been taking calls all day with offers of help from random strangers.

"I can't believe how many people have been calling just to say they want to help," he said.

One stranger called the Sigg home and told Macchaoukas that she had arranged for an injured player's mother to fly to Atlanta.

"She set up the entire flight for us," Macchaoukas said.

The message boards on the Bluffton community Web site are also filled with offers of help and accommodation for family members of those injured in Atlanta.

Jane Burdette, a native of Atlanta, went on to the Bluffton Web site after hearing about the accident.

"I'm a mom, and I just thought, what if those were my children," Burdette said.

She left her name with the chaplain's office at Grady Memorial Hospital, offering a place where family members could stay.

Burdette said that many people have also gone on local Christian radio stations to offer assistance.

Copyright © 2007 ABC News Internet Ventures

BTW, since it appears it was all because of a confusion of ramps, shouldn't have there been a warning posted to slow down upon entering that ramp causing the crash, or did the driver ignore those warnings? (and how about exit notices well ahead of time)

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