Bus driver told patrol he passed out before crash
Thursday, September 26, 2013
CINCINNATI (AP) — The driver of a Greyhound bus that ran off an interstate and flipped onto its side told investigators he didn’t remember anything from the last mile before the crash that injured at least 35 people, an investigative report released Thursday shows.
The State Highway Patrol says 64-year-old Dwayne Garrett told police at the scene of the Sept. 14 accident in southwest Ohio that he had been drinking coffee, started coughing, then lost consciousness.
“This statement is consistent with several passenger accounts stating they saw the driver slumped over the wheel,” the patrol report says. “The driver stated he doesn’t remember anything for approximately one mile before the bus ran off the road. When he regained consciousness, the bus was on its side.”
Garrett was cited for operating a vehicle without reasonable control, a misdemeanor. He declined to comment Thursday.
“Greyhound stands behind its driver, who has a 15-year clean-driving record with the company,” Alexandra Pedrini, a spokeswoman for the Dallas-based company, said Thursday. She said the company is continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding the accident and declined to comment further.
Highway Patrol spokeswoman Lt. Anne Ralston said lab tests and other information still being investigated will be added to the report when available.
The bus was carrying 51 passengers from Cincinnati to Detroit when it ran off Interstate 75 near Monroe, some 25 miles north of Cincinnati, before 4 a.m. The patrol report said the bus drove off the right side of the road and struck a fence and a tree before turning onto its side.
There were no life-threatening injuries. The report described possible internal injuries, broken bones and concussions, but the patrol has said that it believes most, if not all, the passengers had been released from the six hospitals where they were taken.
Passengers described a chaotic and terrifying scene, with one saying he was asleep when he awoke to “screaming and yelling,” and another saying he came to after the crash and saw “bodies everywhere.”
Passengers with less serious injuries described helping others, including a woman whose arm was broken so badly that bone was sticking out.
One passenger, identified as 62-year-old Ruthie Allen of West Bloomfield, Mich., said she noticed the bus veering to the right on the highway.
“I thought the driver was just changing lanes (but) the bus continued to move to the right, driving over the rumble strips, and kept going off the right side of the road,” she said. “He did not brake at all. Before we went completely off of the interstate, I started yelling at the driver, but he did not respond to me.”
Anthony Poe, 30, of Highland Park, Mich., said he had just fallen asleep when the bus went off the road.
“I was airborne for the duration of the crash. I have no clue how I made it,” Poe said.
A passenger identified as Megan Binkowski, 23, of Lexington, Ky., said she also was asleep and woke up to the bus jolting. “Then we rolled over and when we stopped, people were on top of me and trying to get out,” she said.
The driver’s speed was estimated at 68 mph in the 65 mph zone, according to the report.
The report said many passengers gave false identifying information to first responders. In some cases, names didn’t match because tickets had been purchased by other people.
The report also said owners of the cornfield where the bus crashed and overturned after hitting the tree estimated damage at $300. A damaged fence is owned by the state.
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