UPDATE (7:00 p.m. CDT) Officials released new details about Tuesday morning's bus crash on Interstate 10 in Baldwin County.
Captain John Malone with the Alabama State Troopers said 46 people were transported to hospitals after the wreck. 26 victims went to hospitals in Alabama and 20 were taken to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola. As of 7 p.m. Tuesday, only eight victims remain hospitalized. Five are at Sacred Heart, 2 in serious condition and 3 in good condition. Two victims are in serious condition at Thomas Hospital in Fairhope. One victim is in stable condition at USA Medical Center in Mobile.
Baldwin County Sheriff Hoss Mack said the band director has the most serious injuries. Mack said he was trapped in the wreckage for more than three hours as rescue crews worked to get him out.
Mack also said the NTSB is in route to investigate the crash since it involves a commercial vehicle. Investigators believe the bus driver was unresponsive prior to the crash.ORIGINAL POST: A charter passenger bus carrying high school band school students from Texas crashed Tuesday morning on Interstate 10 near the Alabama/Florida line.
One person, bus driver Harry Caligone, died in the crash. Several band members and adults were injured, with three in critical condition and "possibly four" in serious condition, said Baldwin County Sheriff Huey "Hoss" Mack. The critical cases are two students and one adult, the sheriff said.
Baldwin County investigators said the bus was traveling westbound on I-10 with more than 45 people on board when it went into the median at mile marker 57 and fell into a ravine at Cowpen Creek around 5:30 a.m.
The bus was carrying students back home to Channelview, Texas, which is in the Houston area. They are members of the Channelview High School Falcon Band and were traveling back from a school trip to Disney World in Florida.
Mack said the bus went about 50 feet down into the ravine and was lying on its side. Multiple agencies from Alabama and Florida responded to the accident scene. Rescuers had to rappel down to reach the bus, and some passengers were evacuated using ropes, Mack said.
The Sheriff's Office said injured people were taken to hospitals in Mobile and Baldwin County in Alabama as well as Pensacola in Florida. At least one person had to be cut out of the wreckage. Mack said that person is an adult in critical condition and undergoing surgery Tuesday afternoon.
The crash shut down I-10 in both directions for hours, during which time motorists were advised to avoid the area and seek other routes. I-10 westbound reopened around 12:40 p.m., according to the Alabama Department of Transportation. Eastbound lanes reopened around 3:30 p.m.
The Channelview High band was traveling on two charter buses, FOX10 News has learned, and the bus that was not involved continued to Texas and has already arrived in Channelview. The Baldwin County call center is up and running to field calls regarding the passengers and their locations, according to the Sheriff's Office. The call center number is 251-972-6807.
Lowery said uninjured passengers will be reunited with family members and Channelview school officials at two reunification centers. People who were sent to Mobile and Baldwin County hospitals and were discharged will be reunited with family members at Coastal Church on County Road 64 in Daphne, Alabama. Those discharged from Pensacola Hospitals will meet family members at Sacred Heart Hospital.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency will conduct an investigation into the bus crash, Lowery said. He also said officials from the National Transportation Safety Board were on their way to the crash scene.
ALDOT officials inspected the bridge over Cowpen Creek and determined it is safe for travel.
The bus was operated by the First Class Tours charter company out of Houston. The company released a statement following the crash: "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.
Regrettably, the accident has taken the life of the driver of the bus, Harry Caligone. Harry was a long-time driver for our company and we are deeply saddened for this loss. We offer our heartfelt condolences to his family.
It is our understanding that there are additional 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."
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