The driver of a Greyhound bus bound for St. Louis lost control on the Pennsylvania Turnpike early Saturday, sending the bus careering across the highway and up an embankment before it landed on its side on the interstate, briefly trapping a woman and sending 14 people to hospitals, authorities said.
Rescue crews freed the woman who was trapped in the wreckage in a rural area about a mile east of the Lebanon-Lancaster exit, turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo said. Twenty-nine people, including the driver, were aboard, said Greyhound spokeswoman Maureen Richmond, though a turnpike spokesman said he had information that the total might be 25 because of possible duplicates on the driver’s manifest.
Officials at three hospitals said 14 people altogether were brought in. Four uninjured passengers were picked up by another bus; the conditions of the others were unclear.
The bus from New York City stopped in Philadelphia and had traveled about 75 miles westbound on the turnpike when it overturned at about 6 a.m. on the way to a stop in Columbus, Ohio.
State police said the driver, whom they identified as Kareem Edward Farmer, 24, of Philadelphia, lost control of the bus while traveling in the passing lane.
The front end of the bus struck a concrete barrier and the left rear side rode up against the barrier, according to state police. The bus then crossed over the travel lanes, struck an embankment and traveled up the embankment before flipping over on its left side.
The accident was Farmer’s first in the eight months that he has worked for Greyhound, said his father, Derrick Bivins. Richmond declined to discuss Farmer’s safety record.
Bivins, 46, said he had only had brief telephone conversations with his son after the crash about what happened, and that Farmer had suffered a head laceration and cut on his arm.
“He’s OK, with some stitches. He wasn’t able to inform us on anything else,” Bivins said. His son had no other health problems, he added.
Farmer had previously driven a tanker truck used to refuel airplanes at Philadelphia International Airport, Bivins said as he spoke outside the family’s Philadelphia home.
Both westbound lanes of the turnpike were closed for more than four hours, forcing drivers to be rerouted off the interstate. Traffic had been backed up for about three miles while crews worked to upright the bus, DeFebo said.
A man working in a farm shop nearby heard the accident, his father told the Lancaster Sunday News.
“It wasn’t a bang, just a slide,” said the father, Walter Zeiset.
The injured were taken to hospitals in Hershey, Lancaster and Lebanon, according to officials at the hospitals.
At least 12 were being treated and released. Hershey Medical Center admitted one victim, who was listed in listed in fair condition at late morning, and said the other victim might be admitted. At Lancaster General Hospital, staff were evaluating five patients, said nursing supervisor Jan Frailey.
The crash is the latest in a series of bus accidents in the Northeast this year, though most of those involved smaller operators and chartered tour buses, not commercial carriers.
More than 30 people have been killed and more than 300 injured in tour bus accidents this year, according to Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. That’s more than in all of last year, when there 30 killed and 272 injured in 28 crashes.
Tour bus industry safety has drawn heightened attention since the March crash of a bus returning to New York City’s Chinatown after an overnight excursion to a Connecticut casino. Fifteen people were killed when the bus flipped onto its side and struck a pole, peeling off its roof.
Greyhound set up a hotline – (800) 972-4583 – for relatives and friends to get information about people on the bus that crashed in Pennsylvania.
The federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said it was working with state police in their investigation. A spokeswoman referred further questions to state police.
(Associated Press writer Ron Todt in Philadelphia contributed to this report)
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