A harrowing ride on the bus

I-95 traffic tied up for hours after Greyhound overturns

Three remain in serious condition

July 26, 2005|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

Three people remained hospitalized in serious condition last night as police continued to investigate yesterday's early morning crash of a Greyhound bus that spun completely around and slid off rain-slicked Interstate 95 in East Baltimore, tipping onto its side.

Passengers described a nightmarish scene of toppling into each other in the dark cabin. No one died, but at least 13 ambulances took 33 people and the driver to six area hospitals.

Maryland Transportation Authority police, trying to learn the cause of the accident and reconstruct how it occurred, fanned out to the hospitals and to the Greyhound bus station in South Baltimore, where some passengers waited to catch other buses and continue their journey.

"We skid, we spun and we flipped," said Dustin Bevans, 20, an Army soldier on leave after spending six months in Iraq last year. He had been returning home to Camden, N.J., from Florida after visiting his brother, he said, when the bus spun off the highway.

"We did a complete 360 [degree turn] and tipped over," said Bevans, waiting to catch another bus yesterday at the station.

Authorities said the accident could have been far worse.

"While there were some serious injuries, I think we're very fortunate at this point," said Gary W. McLhinney, chief of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police. "This could've been extremely tragic."

McLhinney said it was too early in the investigation to disclose possible factors in the crash. Heavy rainstorms hit the Baltimore area before dawn yesterday, though it was unclear whether the rain or wet roads contributed to the crash.

Authorities and Greyhound officials also declined to release the names of passengers. Cpl. Pamela Thorne, a spokeswoman for the MTA, identified the bus driver last night as Cotina Lane, 31, of Mount Rainier, Prince George's County. Lane could not be reached for comment.

To Shock Trauma

The three passengers in serious condition were being treated at Maryland Shock Trauma Center; two other people who had been listed in fair condition were discharged late last night, officials said.

The accident occurred on the eastern edge of the city, on northbound I-95 just before it merges with Interstate 895, the Harbor Tunnel Thruway. Authorities closed all three lanes and rerouted highway traffic for more than three hours just as yesterday's commute was beginning. The accident led to serious traffic backups in both directions for several miles.

The bus's trip began in Atlanta Sunday afternoon on Southeastern Stages, according to Anna Folmnsbee, a Greyhound spokeswoman. Greyhound took over the bus's schedule in Fayetteville, N.C., the same day, she said.

The bus made stops in Richmond, Va.; Washington, D.C.; and Baltimore. It had been bound for Wilmington, Del., and then was to make its final stop in Philadelphia at 7:35 a.m., Folmnsbee said.

Late leaving station

With a capacity of 47 passengers, the bus was more than two-thirds full when it left the Greyhound station south of Camden Yards at 5:55 a.m., a half-hour later than its scheduled departure, Folmnsbee said.

Since it was so early, many of the passengers were either barely awake or sleeping at the time of the crash, about 6:10 a.m., according to several passengers interviewed yesterday.

"The next thing we know, we were spinning. ... I thought I was dreaming." said Ariel Holmes, 19, a college student who had visited friends in Virginia and was going home to New Jersey.

Holmes, who was interviewed by an MTA police officer at the bus station, wore green hospital scrubs given to her by staff at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, where she was treated for minor injuries. Her own clothes were dirty and bloody and she had lost her belongings, including her eyeglasses and purse, she said.

"It was scary," Holmes said. "I was crying."

Bevans said passengers were yelling and screaming as they tumbled into other passengers. He was pinned under another person before he could free himself, he said.

"People from the left side went to the right side," he said.

Jacques Fu, 25, a business analyst for a pharmaceutical company who lives in Drexel Hill, Pa., said he was "awakened by the beginning of the spin."

Fu said the bus appeared to be "going a little too fast" and lost traction as it rounded a turn in the highway. He said it performed a 360-degree turn before falling on its side and settling in mud.

Another passenger, Lottie Gary, 59, of Maple Shade, N.J., said she remembers thinking, as the bus came to a stop: "`Oh, God, are a lot of cars going to start hitting us?' You start thinking the worst," she said while being treated at Franklin Square Hospital Center in Rosedale for a head injury, possible internal injuries, and lower back, arm and shoulder pain.

Chief Kevin Cartwright, a city Fire Department spokesman, said yesterday that the first emergency rescue vehicle was dispatched at 6:17 a.m. from East Baltimore and arrived seven minutes later.

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