GIBBON, Neb. (AP) - A Denver-bound bus rammed into an overturned semitrailer in central Nebraska early Thursday, injuring dozens of people, including five who were hospitalized.
The Nebraska State Patrol said 41 people, including the bus and semi drivers, were taken to a hospital in Kearney, about 180 miles west of Omaha, after the accident on Interstate 80 around 2 a.m.
The majority of the passengers were able to board a new bus and continue their trip a few hours later, American Red Cross officials said.
Good Samaritan Hospital spokeswoman Marsha Wilkerson said 30 people were treated and released, and some refused treatment. Of the five admitted, one was in critical condition and one was in serious condition. The other three patients were in fair condition.
Nebraska State Patrol spokeswoman Deb Collins said the semitrailer overturned after the driver drifted into the median and overcorrected.
The vehicle came to rest on its side blocking the westbound lanes near Gibbon, and a second semitrailer truck clipped the overturned trailer and ended up in a ditch. Then the bus ran into the overturned semitrailer and collided with the interstate median.
Collins said the Burlington Trailways bus driver - 50-year-old Michelle Anderson, of Omaha - was in critical condition at the hospital Thursday. The driver of the first semi - 39-year-old Mohammed Arguini, of Antioch, Tenn. - was in fair condition.
One of the bus passengers - 77-year-old Barbara Bishop, of Hemet, Calif. - was in serious condition Thursday. Two other passengers were in fair condition; they are: 48-year-old Danny Briggs, of St. George, Utah; and 50-year-old Willie Abner, of Birmingham, Ala.
The 61-year-old driver of the second truck was not hurt.
Collins said it wasn't immediately clear how long the first truck had been blocking the interstate before the second truck and bus hit it. The accident closed I-80 for about 41â„2 hours. It reopened around 6:30 a.m.
Anthony Pavarotti, 53, told the Kearney Hub that he was awake and sitting four rows behind the driver when the crash happened.
Pavarotti said the bus was in the left-hand lane being passed by the second semi on the right when it came upon the overturned semi, so he said the bus went right through the trailer full of dried cereal.
Pavarotti, who is homeless, said his 4-year-old service dog was killed in the crash.
"I'm having a hard time dealing with it. We've never been separated. Never been separated," he said to the Kearney Hub.
Pavarotti said the bus driver had been talking on her cell phone throughout the trip and may have been distracted.
But Collins said the State Patrol's initial investigation showed that the driver's cell phone was not in use at the time of the crash.
American Bus Association spokesman Dan Ronan said the bus company prohibits personal cell phone calls, but the company's drivers use cell phones to communicate with dispatchers, other bus drivers and terminals along the route.
"There's no indication she was doing anything improper," Ronan said.
The passengers who were treated and released from the hospital spent about two hours at an American Red Cross shelter until the bus operator, Burlington Trailways, could get another bus there. They resumed their trip around 8:30 a.m.
The bus company said the remaining passengers should reach Denver sometime after 3 p.m. Mountain Thursday after making planned stops in Lexington, North Platte, Ogalalla, Neb., and in Sterling, Brush and Ft. Morgan, Colo.
Red Cross volunteer Clarence Davis said the passengers seemed to be in decent shape considering what they had been through.
"Most of them are still in shock, but they're doing OK," Davis said.
Ronan said federal transportation records show Burlington Trailways, based in West Burlington, Iowa, has a clean safety record with no accidents in the past two years. Data for previous years wasn't immediately available.
Ronan said Anderson has had her commercial license for nearly 10 years, including seven years driving for Burlington Trailways. He said she had logged 824,000 miles without an accident or moving violation.
The bus was new, having been put into service just two weeks ago, and was fully equipped with seatbelts. Ronan said seatbelts are now required on commercial buses but that passengers are not required to buckle up.
The State Patrol was investigating the accident.