A double-decker bus slammed into a low railroad bridge early Saturday, killing four passengers including a Temple University student, according to police. The bus may have made a wrong turn off the highway, authorities said.
Kevin Coffey, 19, from Manhattan, Kansas, was a member of the school's honors program. Temple University president Ann Weaver Hart released the following statement:
“We were extremely saddened to hear of the tragic death of Temple University student Kevin Coffey. The loss of one of our students is a loss for the entire university community. We offer our sympathy to Kevin's family and friends, including his fellow students in Temple's Honors program. Students affected by this tragedy will be encouraged to seek counseling with the University's Student Counseling Center.”
The dead also include Deanna Armstrong, 18, of Voorhees, N.J., Ashwani Mehta, 34, of India and Benjamin Okorie, 35, of Malaysia.
The bus lay on its side after the crash. The bus was too tall to make it under the low-hanging span, said Larry Ives, supervisor of dispatch operations for the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department.
It struck the bridge between two large signs warning that the clearance was 10 feet, 9 inches, photographs from WSYR-TV showed. The bus was approximately 13 feet tall, and its upper level was obliterated in the front.
The driver was identified as 59-year-old John Tomaszewski of Yardville, N.J. Onondaga County sheriff's deputy Herb Wiggins said
Sunday that no charges against him have been filed.
Tomaszewski and 24 passengers were taken to hospitals, with injuries ranging from mild to critical, officials said. The driver and four passengers remain hospitalized.
The driver sustained head injuries but was speaking to investigators, Onondaga County sheriff's deputy Herb Wiggins told The Post-Standard newspaper of Syracuse.
Normally, the bus enters Syracuse on Interstate 81 and heads straight for a depot for a 30-minute rest stop, Carmichael said, but on this night, the driver left his usual route and was on a lakeside parkway that might have been unfamiliar.
“We don't know why,” he said. Asked if the driver might have been lost, Carmichael said, “He had driven the route before.”
The parkway and the transportation depot share the same exit off the interstate, and a driver who chose the wrong fork at the bottom of the ramp would find himself on the parkway. From there, it is only a short distance to the bridge, and in between there are no places for a driver to turn or pull off the road.
Carmichael said the company began offering the daily trip on July 21 and the driver had been making it regularly since then.
The bus normally arrives in Syracuse at 2:10 a.m. and idles there until 2:40 a.m., so it was late getting in but not terribly so.
The crash shut down the parkway.
Carmichael said on Saturday afternoon that 17 passengers had been released from the hospital and brought to a hotel to rest and decide whether they wanted to continue on their trip, or go home.
Megabus has operated the double-decker buses since 2007.
“This is a very, very unfortunate, horrific accident, and our primary concern right now is for the families and loved ones of the deceased. Our thoughts and prayers are with them,” Carmichael said.