Ohio interstate crash involving busload of high school students leaves 3 dead, sends 15 to hospital
Nov 14, 2023, 7:41 AM | Updated: 3:08 pm
ETNA, Ohio (AP) — A charter bus filled with high school students was rear-ended by a semitruck on an Ohio highway Tuesday morning, leaving three people dead and 15 others injured, officials said.
Five vehicles were involved in the crash, including a Pioneer Trails charter bus that was carrying students and chaperones from the Tuscarawas Valley Local School District in eastern Ohio, said Licking County Emergency Management Agency Director Sean Grady. There were a total of 57 people onboard, he said.
“This is our worst nightmare, when we have a bus full of children involved in a crash,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said during a news conference at the scene. “Prayers go out to the families, everyone who was on the bus.”
Lt. Nathan Dennis of the Ohio State Highway Patrol confirmed that there were fatalities but declined to say how many. He said 18 people altogether were taken from the bus. The injured were taken to seven hospitals for treatment.
The bus was carrying the students and chaperones to an Ohio School Boards Association conference in Columbus, Tuscarawas Valley Superintendent Derek Varansky said.
“Right now, our focus is on getting in touch with our Tusky Valley families who had loved ones on the bus and providing support to our entire school community,” Varansky said in a Facebook post.
The conference was canceled after organizers learned of the crash, said spokesperson Jeff Chambers.
The crash took place shortly before 9 a.m. on Interstate 70 West in Licking County, about 26 miles (42 kilometers) east of Columbus. The cause was not immediately known.
In a written statement, Pioneer Trails offered its condolences to those affected by the crash and said it was cooperating with authorities, but would have no further comment pending the investigation.
The Red Cross sent 30 units of blood to a hospital in the Mount Carmel Health System to help victims, said Marita Salkowski, regional communications director for the American Red Cross of Central and Southern Ohio. A center was set up at a United Methodist Church in Etna where bus passengers not in need of medical attention could go to contact loved ones, she said.
As a line of cars snaked into the Tuscarawas Valley Middle-High School parking lot Tuesday morning, school officials spoke with parents before they went inside to pick up their kids, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
“I’m sick. I’m sick to my stomach,” the newspaper quoted parent Laurie Fragasse as saying when she picked up her daughter.
Numerous emergency workers responded to the crash scene, and Ohio Department of Transportation cameras from the area showed smoke coming from the crash site. Police officers were blocking nearby entrance ramps to I-70 East and West, increasing traffic along the road leading to the interstate.
The National Transportation Safety Board said a team of investigators was expected to arrive at the site Tuesday evening.
The Ohio collision was the second recent fatal crash in the U.S. involving high school students on a charter bus. In September, two people were killed and several others injured when a charter bus carrying high school students to band camp veered off a New York highway.
Seewer reported from Toledo, Ohio. Associated Press writers Ron Todt in Philadelphia; and Bruce Shipkowski in Toms River, New Jersey, contributed to this report.