Bus crash in icy Montana kills 2, injures dozens

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A bus crashed Sunday on an icy interstate highway in southwestern Montana, killing two people and sending more than 30 others to area hospitals, officials said.

The westbound Rimrock Trailways bus crashed on Interstate 90 about a mile west of Clinton, 18 miles southeast of Missoula, shortly after 7 a.m., Dan Ronan of the American Bus Association said. All of the 34 people on board were either injured or killed.

The crash was one of several reported along that stretch of highway Sunday morning, closing both eastbound and westbound lanes of an 8-mile section of the interstate between Clinton and Turah. It was not clear if there were additional injuries, or how many. Eastbound lanes and one westbound lane reopened Sunday evening.

Two people died in the bus crash, Montana Highway Patrol Sgt. Scott Hoffman said.

St. Patrick Hospital spokeswoman JoAnne Hoven said 12 passengers were taken to the Missoula hospital. Late Sunday she said seven were in serious condition and one was in critical condition. Four others were treated and released, she said.

Mary Windecker, spokeswoman for the Community Medical Center, also in Missoula, said 20 passengers were taken there to be treated for various injuries, none critical

Those suffering the worst injuries appeared to have been ejected when the bus slid on its side and bounced, breaking out the windows on the driver’s side. Three people were pinned under the bus. Hoffman said the driver was among the seriously injured.

He said the estimated speed of the bus was 65 to 70 mph, and that it slid 150 feet when it entered the median, though it’s unclear how long it might have been out of control before that.

“When it went on its side, because of the speed involved, it had a bouncing motion,” Hoffman said. “And as it did people were ejected through those windows.”

The bus ended up in the median on its side, said Bill Tucker, the fire chief for the Clinton Rural Fire District. Two of the passengers were transported to a hospital by helicopters, and six or eight by ground ambulance, he said.

The rest of the survivors, which Tucker described as “walking wounded,” were loaded on a Clinton Elementary School bus and taken to Community Medical Center.

The cause of the crash was not yet known, though it is believed icy conditions were a factor, Ronan said. The electronic equipment on the bus indicated it was going 65 mph at the time of the crash.

The speed limit in the area is 75 mph, but Montana law requires motorists to travel at a speed that is safe for the conditions, and Hoffman said .

authorities were investigating whether the bus was going too fast.

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