Death toll rises in New Mexico bus crash

Published: Aug. 30, 2018 at 5:19 PM PDT
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Three children, including two infants, were among the dozens of passengers seriously injured when the commercial bus they were riding in was hit head-on by a semitruck on a New Mexico highway, killing eight people, hospital officials said Friday.

Officials at University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque said 10 patients are hospitalized there, including three adults who are in intensive care, one of whom is in critical condition.

Some patients were expected to undergo surgery Friday and Saturday. While doctors declined to offer specifics, they said the patients that came in during the hours that followed Thursday’s crash on Interstate 40 near the Arizona border had injuries that ranged from head trauma to spine fractures and other broken bones.

“Several of them will have a long road of recovery ahead,” said Sonlee West, director of the hospital’s trauma unit. “We have been in contact with family members of several of the patients, and several of them have been able to talk to their families.”

The crash killed eight people and injured many of the 49 people aboard the Greyhound bus heading to Phoenix from Albuquerque. Several passengers were being treated Friday at hospitals in the Gallup area, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the crash site.

Authorities said Friday they were working on positively identifying those who were killed through fingerprints and other means.

The semitrailer was headed east on the freeway Thursday afternoon when one of its tires blew, sending the rig carrying produce across the median and into oncoming traffic, where it slammed into the bus, New Mexico State Police said.

Passing motorists described a chaotic scene with passengers on the ground and people screaming.

Eric Huff was heading to the Grand Canyon with his girlfriend when they came across the crash. The semi’s trailer was upside down and “shredded to pieces,” and the front of the bus was smashed, he said, with many of the seats pressed together.

Truck driver Santos Soto III shot video showing the front of the Greyhound sheared off and the semi split open, with its contents strewn across the highway. He saw people sobbing on the side of the road as bystanders tried to comfort them.

“I was really traumatized myself, because I’ve been driving about two years and I had never seen anything like that before,” Soto said.

Chris Jones was headed west on Interstate 40 when he caught his first glimpse of the semi turned over. He stopped to help and came across the driver of the semi.

“He was sitting there on the shoulder on the front road, still in shock, trying to figure out what was going on,” Jones said.

He said the driver told him that one of his front tires had popped, forcing the truck to veer into oncoming traffic, where it slammed into the bus.

Authorities have not identified the truck driver or the trucking company, saying the investigation is ongoing. The National Transportation Safety Board is helping investigate.

Greyhound spokeswoman Crystal Booker said in a statement that the company was cooperating with authorities and will also complete an investigation of its own.

A pile of debris remained on the shoulder of the highway Friday, but transportation crews had yet to clear it because they said it contained evidence and belongings from the bus passengers.

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