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At least 2 die when bus headed for casino overturns near Dallas

A charter bus rests on it's side after crashing on the President George Bush Turnpike Thursday in Irving, Texas. The chartered bus overturned on the busy highway near Dallas killing at least two people and injuring several others, authorities said. (Associated Press: LM OTERO)

The Associated Press


IRVING, Texas — At least two people were killed and about 35 others were hospitalized after a charter bus careened off a Texas highway and flipped onto its side Thursday, drawing a large emergency response as rescue crews struggled to reach victims inside, authorities said.

The Cardinal Coach Line bus was traveling just east of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Irving when it suddenly weaved across the highway, stuck a concrete barrier and toppled over, witnesses said. The cause of the accident was not immediately clear.

"We ended up swirling and weaving and then ended up on the side," passenger Daniel Risik, 73, told The Dallas Morning News. "People were screaming and hollering, a very traumatic situation to say the least."

He said most people aboard the bus, which picked up passengers in Fort Worth, weren't wearing seat belts.

"People were piled on top of each other," he said. "It was unbelievable. A lady had pinned me. Rescue got there and started pulling people out of a roof emergency hatch. People were hollering, screaming; there was blood all over the place. It was unbelievable."

The bus, which was carrying about 45 people, was headed to a casino in Oklahoma, officials said.

Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Lonny Haschel confirmed that two people were killed. Nearly three dozen people were being treated at local hospitals, many of them suffering from fractured bones, hospital officials said.

Emergency vehicles could be seen swarming the bus, with ladders being used to pull passengers from some broken windows. Witnesses said one person appeared to be pinned by the bus.

The crash came less than one week  after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne S. Ferro met with a broad-based group of motorcoach representatives as part of the department’s continuing and unprecedented efforts to improve the safety and oversight of the motorcoach industry and inform the public about safe motorcoach travel.  

The meeting last Friday, which included representatives from law enforcement, tourism and travel groups and state and local government, builds on earlier meetings as well as last week’s announcement that FMCSA is deploying more than 50 specially trained safety investigators throughout the country to begin targeted and in-depth inspections of higher-risk motorcoach companies. 

It could not be immediately determined if a representative from Cardinal Coach was present at the meeting.

Cardinal Coach, which operates five buses and employs seven drivers, has reported no crashes in the last two years that resulted in deaths or injuries, according to the FMCSA. The company is based in Mansfield, south of Dallas.

The company has not been the subject of a sufficient number on inspections to have a CSA score in any category.

It appears that in the past two years the company has had two inspections, both in mid-2011, one of which resulted in the bus being put out-of-service, and both of which resulted in the driver being put out-of-service.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday afternoon it had dispatched two persons to investigate the accident.

A man who answered the phone at the company confirmed that a Cardinal Coach bus was involved in the Irving accident but said he didn't have time to talk because he was trying to gather information about the crash.

Law enforcement officers were interviewing bus passengers and other drivers who witnessed the crash. Haschel said he had no immediate information on where the bus trip originated.

A spokeswoman for Baylor Medical Center in Irving said 13 patients arrived at the hospital following the accident. Officials at Las Colinas Medical Center in Irving confirmed six patients were there, though details were not immediately available on their conditions.

Another 11 patients were transported to Parkland Memorial Hospital, including the driver of the bus, and another victim was airlifted to a fourth hospital in critical condition, hospital officials said.

Public transportation buses with Dallas Area Rapid Transit were used to transport some passengers with lesser injuries.

Associated Press writers Nomaan Merchant, David Warren, Diana Heidgerd and Danny Robbins in Dallas contributed to this report.

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