1 dead, dozen hurt when bus plunges off suburban DC highway; several children, parents aboard

By Sarah Brumfield, AP
Wednesday, September 29, 2010

1 dead, dozen hurt in bus crash outside DC

BETHESDA, Md. — A commuter bus plunged off a highway Wednesday outside the nation’s capital, killing one person and injuring at least a dozen, including children, authorities said.

Parents and children were aboard the bus that fell 45 feet off a skyramp of the Capital Beltway and landed below along Interstate 270 in Bethesda, said Maryland State Police Sgt. Michael Brennan.

Earlier, television footage showed crews in yellow jackets and helmets walking up ladders and crawling into the holed-out windows of the bus. Rescuers spread out tarp on the roadway where a woman lay with a brace around her neck and held a compress to her head. Police dogs were searching the area in case people were ejected from the bus.

Some children also sat in the triage areas surrounded by backpacks, including a girl with a white bandage wrapped around her head. A firefighter could be seen carrying a child in his arms, while others were taken away on stretchers.

Authorities had to extricate several people from the “limousine-style tour bus,” said Montgomery County fire department Assistant Chief Scott Graham.

The crash occurred about 4 p.m. as the afternoon rush hour started to build, creating a massive traffic jam northwest of Washington.

State police helicopters were flying over the scene, taking pictures for the investigation. Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board were en route.

Graham said 12 people were taken to area hospitals; a 13th person refused treatment. Two had critical, life-threatening injuries, two others were critically hurt but should survive and the rest had minor injuries.

Dr. Barton Leonard, an emergency physician at Suburban Hospital, said eight patients were brought there. Two adults were in fair condition and two other adults and four children were in good condition. Leonard did not specify their injuries, but said some might be released later. Among the patients were a mother and daughter.

“They are in good spirits,” said Leonard, who personally cared for some of the patients.

Considering the height of the fall, he said: “I’m surprised there weren’t more severe injuries.”

The heavily damaged white bus, with green lettering reading “Wolf’s,” was sitting upright just over a jersey wall from a lane of I-270.

A person who answered the telephone at Pennsylvania-based Wolf’s Bus Lines Inc. said she had no information about the crash. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration spokeswoman Candice Tolliver wrote in an e-mail that the bus line got a satisfactory rating in August.

School officials said the children were not Montgomery County public school students.

County Council President Nancy Floreen said she was shocked to learn of what she called probably the worst accident in her 10 years in local public office.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of those people, those children,” Floreen said.


Associated Press writers Natasha Metzler in Bethesda, Md., and Jessica Gresko, Kathleen Miller and Nafeesa Syeed in Washington contributed to this report.

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