A group of Bucks County students and parents are heading back to Bristol after their charter bus struck an overpass in Boston Saturday night.
The bus, carrying 33 students and nine chaperons, was coming from Harvard University and heading back to Bucks County Saturday night when it struck an overpass in the Allston neighborhood shortly before 8 p.m., according to the Boston Fire Department. The teens and chaperons on the bus were from the Destined For a Dream Foundation in Bristol. Pa., a nonprofit that helps underprivileged young people.
39 people in all were injured and 35 of them were sent to the hospital, according to officials. Many of the victims suffered minor injuries and were treated and released from five Boston-area hospitals. One person remained in critical condition Sunday, and two others in serious condition, according to authorities. 28 of the victims were discharged from the hospitals and returned home Sunday night.
NBC10 spoke with some of the victims as well as their family members.
"There was a lot of glass, a lot of screaming and a lot of crying," said Gregory Harris, the Vice President of Destined for a Dream. "I believe I may have passed out during that time."
"Some people were bleeding, some people had scars," said 9-year-old Jaxson Walters who was injured in the accident. "My mom got a broken collarbone and she has a scar on her forehead. It was bleeding."
Jason's mother will have to stay in a Boston hospital for a week to recover. His teenage brother is part of "Destined for a Dream" and he went along with the group since his mother was chaperoning.
"When I was riding on the bus it was scary," said Jason.
"We're really blessed because it could have been so much worse," said Erica Waller-Hill, the founder of "Destined for a Dream." "These kids have been wonderful. They've stayed strong during this adverse time. So we're going to get them connected back with their loved ones."
Gary Merrigan tells NBC10 his daughter Ilana was a passenger on the bus and called him moments after the accident. Merrigan immediately drove from his home in Levittown to Soldiers Field in Boston to search for his daughter.
"She was seated towards the back near the bathroom," said Merrigan. "Fortunately some of the other kids and parents were trapped underneath bathroom doors. It kept her from being completely trapped."
Merrigan claims his daughter, a Junior at Bucks County Technical High School, was one of the first to be freed from the bus. She was lifted by emergency personnel from an escape hatch. She was then treated and released at Beth Israel Hospital and returned home with her father.
Police identified the driver is 66-year-old Samuel Jackson who works for Calvary Coach Bus located at North 28th Street in Philadelphia. State Police said the bus was too high for the roadway and Jackson was driving on the side of the highway reserved for cars when he tried to pass under a bridge with only 10-foot clearance. State police are investigating whether charges are warranted against Jackson after he apparently failed to see the sign prohibiting the vehicle from taking that route.
Several passengers were trapped on the bus for hours. Firefighters stood on top of the bus using boards to extract them.
NBC10 spoke with Ray Talmadge, the owner of Calvary Coach Bus, about the cause of the accident.
"He looked at his GPS," said Talmadge. "He looked down and when he looked back up, he saw a low bridge and he hit the low bridge."
NBC10 also checked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration site and discovered that the Calvary Coach Bus company committed three violations for "driver's record of duty status not current." Despite the violations, no crashes have been reported for the company in the U.S. and Canada in the past two years before Saturday's accident.
Photos posted on the Fire Department's website showed firefighters extracting people from the bus.
The accident happened on Soldiers Field Road, a major crosstown roadway in Boston that curves along the Charles River and passes by Harvard and Boston University. It is a major roadway to the Massachusetts Turnpike. The bus has been cleared from the accident scene.
An investigation into the crash is underway.
Volunteers with the American Red Cross are currently assisting the families and students affected by the accident.