LOXLEY (CBSMiami/AP) — A bus carrying Texas high school band members home from a spring break trip to Disney World plunged into a ravine before dawn Tuesday in Alabama, killing one person and injuring many others.
First responders used ropes to rappel down a 50-foot ravine in the middle of Interstate 10 to reach them, and then use equipment to cut out the victims, said Baldwin County Sheriff Huey Hoss Mack, who confirmed the fatality.
About 45 people were on board, and all of them were brought to 10 hospitals in Alabama and Florida, either by helicopter or ambulance, he said.
The bus entered the median and then plunged into the ravine at about 5:30 a.m., the sheriff said. It wasn’t immediately clear why.
One student described the harrowing experience.
“I woke up and the band director who was not driving was screaming ‘hairy, hairy, hairy,’ like hairy situation,” said Channelview Texas High School student DeWayne Benson. “I felt bumps then one huge bump and everything went black.”
Siblings Josh and Bianca Torres were both on the trip but on different buses on the way home.
Josh says he and his family tried desperately to get Bianca on the phone after her bus crashed.
“We were feeling hopeless, we thought our sister had died,” Josh said.
Josh says Bianca flew over four rows of seats but walked away with only a bruised knee.
Special equipment has been brought in to lift the bus out of the ravine.
Rescuers used every piece of equipment on every truck to reach them, Mack said: “This is what we call an all-out.”
An image of the wreckage shows the crumpled bus landed on its side, far below the pavement. The interstate was closed down in both directions as the injured were flown to hospitals including emergency rooms in Mobile and Pensacola, Florida, plus a free-standing emergency room in rural Baldwin County, said Chris Elliott, a Baldwin County commissioner who helped out at the county emergency management center following the crash.
“Everybody is being transferred to a hospital to at least be checked out,” said Elliott.
Channelview Independent School District spokesman Mark Kramer confirmed that the charter bus was carrying Channelview High School band members. Kramer’s statement said the district had only limited details in the immediate aftermath and was in contact with law enforcement in Alabama to get more information.
An official with the bus charter company, First Class Tours of Houston, said the company was working on a statement.
One image posted on the band’s Facebook page hours before the crash showed a large group posing outside Disney World.
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