1 Dead, 66 Injured In Bus Crash

Monday, June 25th 2007, 8:05 pm

By: News On 6

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) _ A tour bus carrying members of an extended Alabama family home from a reunion veered off a southern Kentucky highway early Monday and slammed into an overpass, killing one person and injuring 66 others.

State police said the driver apparently dozed off shortly before 3 a.m., while most of the passengers were asleep. The bus veered off Interstate 65, struck an earthen embankment and rammed a concrete bridge pillar about 75 miles north of Nashville.

At least two of the injured were reported in critical condition Monday afternoon, including an 8-year-old boy and the 63-year-old driver, police said.

Trooper Steve Pavey said no charges were pending against the driver, and that the woman who died was ejected from the bus.

Hours later, as authorities worked to remove the shattered bus from the roadside, children's pink suitcases, blankets and other luggage were still piled along the highway.

The bus had been rented by a family returning to Alabama from a reunion in Niagara Falls in upstate New York.

Jaida Goree, 27, said she woke up just before the crash and heard a ``popping'' noise and something like a wheel grinding just before the impact. The force of the crash threw her forward several rows. She called for her two children in the chaos that followed. Neither was seriously hurt.

Two passing truckers stopped to help the family get off the bus through the emergency exit, Goree said, adding she didn't know what caused the accident.

State police said there were 42 adult passengers, 23 children and two drivers on the bus. Sixteen people remained hospitalized Monday night.

James Jackson, a passenger on the bus, said some of the children were fine, while others ``are not doing so good.''

Mary Hill, who said most of those on the bus were her cousins, drove five hours from Alabama after learning that her brother was among the injured.

``He said everyone was so hysterical,'' she said. ``Everyone was trying to find the kids.''

The passengers included about 40 members of the Jackson family from Forkland, Ala., and several town officials, said Cynthia K. Stone, city clerk in the west Alabama community of 630 people.

Authorities identified the two in critical condition as bus driver Abraham Parker, 63, of Birmingham, Ala.; and Kayalon Jackson, 8, of Forkland.

The woman who died was identified as Carrie Walton, 71, of Alabama's Greene County.

Walton was ``a very lovely person,'' Stone said. ``She was a wonderful mother, grandmother. Her family was the most important thing to her.''

Some of the bus passengers treated at the scene wore T-shirts commemorating the Hamilton Jackson Hendricks Family Reunion.

By early afternoon, a number of the injured passengers had been released from four hospitals and were taken to a shelter the Red Cross set up at a church. Some had bandages on their heads and arms, and some needed wheelchairs or crutches.

Clarence Williams, president of C & R Tours confirmed the company had rented the bus for the family trip to New York state. He did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press seeking additional comment after state police released their preliminary finding on the cause of the crash.

The company had a satisfactory safety rating when it was last reviewed in March, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. It had not reported any accidents or injuries in the last two years.

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