Bus Transporting High School Band Plunges into Alabama Ravine, Killing Driver & Injuring Dozens MoreMarch 14, 2018
At about 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday March 13th, a chartered tour bus transporting 46 people veered off of Interstate 10 in Loxley, Alabama, causing the bus to plummet 50 feet down into an adjacent ravine. The bus was driving 40 Channelview High School band members and 6 chaperones back home from Disney World, following an annual band competition.
Emergency responders reportedly had to rappel down the steep ravine to rescue the bus accident victims. Some of the victims remained entrapped by the wreckage for more than three hours before responders could reach and free them.
The bus driver, identified as 65-year-old Harry Caligone, suffered fatal injuries in the crash. More than 37 passengers suffered minor to severe injuries. While at least 15 victims have already been treated in and discharged from local hospitals, two remain hospitalized in serious condition.
Investigation Ongoing, Authorities Still Searching for Answers
Investigators are continuing to gather and examine evidence to try to determine the exact causes of this crash. As the probe continues, here is what authorities have found and reported to date:
- The bus crashed into a guardrail before falling into the ravine.
- The bus driver, a 15-year employee of the charter bus company (First Class Tours, Inc.), had undergone a medical fitness exam the week before the crash. The driver was found to have no chronic health conditions in this exam, and last week, his medical certification was renewed.
- There does not seem to be any signs that driver tried to decelerate or stop the bus prior to the accident. This could suggest that the driver was not attentive, alert or responsive in the seconds before the crash.
As this investigation moves forward, additional evidence may reveal whether the actions or inactions of the bus driver, First Class Tours and/or some other party may have contributed to this fatal wreck.
First Class Tours’ Buses Involved in Four Crashes within Past Two Years, FMCSA Records Reveal
Tragically, this week’s deadly bus accident is only one of a handful of bus crashes involving a First Class Tour bus within the past two years.
In fact, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA’s) records, buses owned and operated by First Class Tours have been involved in four accidents since March 2016. While three of these wrecks did not result in any injuries, one was a deadly accident, like the Loxley wreck.
According to a local Houston news outlet, First Class Tours and the Channelview Independent School District (IDS) have both issued statements in response to this week’s deadly bus crash.
First Class Tours’ statement explains that:
A serious accident has taken place involving a First Class Tours bus in Alabama this morning. The bus was carrying a group of band students from Channelview High School who were returning home to Houston from Orlando. Regrettably, the accident has taken the life of the driver of the bus, Harry Caligone. Harry was a long-time driver for our company, and we are deeply saddened by this loss. We offer our heartfelt condolences to his family. It is our understanding that there are additional injuries as a result of the accident. Our prayers are with the injured and their families at this time. We pledge our assistance in cooperating with local authorities in the investigation. Presently, this is all the information that we have to share. We will provide updates as additional information becomes available and it is appropriate to do so.
In its statement, the Channelview IDS has expressed that:
First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers go out to our students, employees and families that have been affected by this tragedy. As you are well aware, a charter bus carrying Channelview High School band students was involved in an accident returning from Florida early this morning. At this time, we have been able to confirm that 40 students and 6 adults from Channelview were on the bus at the time of the accident. We are aware of numerous injuries. We are now focused on getting everyone back safely to our community. We are extremely grateful for the first responders, hospital employees, and volunteers from churches and schools in Alabama and Florida that have stepped up to help our students and comfort them through this difficult situation. Those communities have opened their hearts and arms to our children and employees. They have provided resources, support, and a safe and welcoming environment while we work through the logistics of reuniting our families. We also want to thank our state and local officials who have all reached out to help us. Governor Abbott, Senator Sylvia Garcia, Commissioner Jack Morman, Representative Ana Hernandez, and Precinct 3 Constable Sherman Eagleton have all reached out to offer support and assistance.
If you have any information regarding this bus accident, we encourage you to confidentially share it with our firm.
Call (713) 352-7975 or email us to tell us your account. We will pass it along to the proper authorities.