One dead after bus carrying Houston students plunges into Alabama ravine
LOXLEY, Ala. (FOX 26 / AP) - At least one person was killed Tuesday when a charter bus filled with Houston high school students plunged into an Alabama ravine -- a crash that left about three dozen other people hurt.
Channelview ISD has confirmed that it was carrying students and staff from Channelview High School's band. Officials say the bus was returning to Houston from a school trip to Disney World.
One person died, driver Harry Caligone, and about three dozen others were hurt, mostly teenagers, authorities and the bus company said. WALA reports two of the passengers are in critical condition.
Baldwin County Sheriff's Office Major Anthony Lowery said the bus plunged off Interstate 10 into a deep ravine around 6:30 a.m. local time Tuesday. Baldwin County officials say emergency personnel located and evacuated the passengers of the bus. Many were evacuated via medical helicopters and ambulances.
Injured passengers were taken to several different hospitals in Baldwin County, Alabama and Pensacola, Florida. Passengers who were not injured were taken to Sacred Heart Medical Center in Pensacola.
The accident scene is under investigation by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and the Alabama Department of Transportation.
Some of the students involved in the crash returned to the Houston area on Tuesday afternoon on a bus that was not involved in the wreck.
By the time they did arrive, class president Mirian Hernandez had been waiting for them anxiously for hours.
"I just woke up to the news and it's pretty hard because you see the students around the school,” Hernandez said.
And hard because the details about those student was coming out in drips and drabs. The band members were returning from a band competition at Disney World. Not all of them went. The school couldn't say for sure. Berenice Montalongo was one of the lucky or unlucky ones, depending on your point of view.
"I would've been them. I'm grateful I wasn't, but at the same time I'm very worried and concerned over them," Montalongo said.
The news got better as the day wore on. The fatality wasn't a student. Of the 40 students and six staffers on board, only a handful were hurt. The school superintendent said he didn't think the injuries were life threatening. The challenge would be getting them back home.
"I will be honest with you. Some of the students we have talked to, the ones in Pensacola, they didn't want to ride back in a car and I understand and we are trying to work something out with the airlines," said Greg Ollis.
A spokesperson for United Airlines says the company is offering transportation to individuals and families impacted by the bus crash and are working directly with a representative at Channelview High School to accommodate travel requests for students and families.
As for the ones already back safely, grief counselors and members of the clergy were there to meet them at the school. It’s a return, but not a return to business as usual. It might be a long time before that happens, but Hernandez thinks it will eventually.
"We've had Hurricane Harvey and we've had this accident. And we've had accidents at school. It's been a hard year. I know we can get through it," Hernandez said.
Channelview ISD released the following statement:
A charter bus transporting Channelview High School band students was involved in an accident on Interstate 10 in Alabama early this morning. At this time, details are limited. We are in contact with law enforcement in Alabama trying to obtain further information.
First Class Tours released the following statement:
A serious accident has taken place involving a First Class Tours bus in Alabama this morning. The bus was carrying a group of band students from Channelview High School who were returning home to Houston from Orlando.
It is our understanding that there are injuries as a result of the accident. Our prayers are with the injured and their families at this time.
We pledge our assistance in cooperating with local authorities in the investigation.
Presently, this is all the information that we have to share. We will provide updates as additional information becomes available and it is appropriate to do so.
TO FIND OUT WHERE YOUR LOVED ONE IS CONTACT THE BALDWIN COUNTY CALL CENTER AT (251) 972-6807.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.