PASSENGERS of deadly Greyhound bus accident say driver appeared sleepy during trip

Monday, August 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SPRINGFIELD, Tenn. (AP) _ Passengers of a Greyhound bus that flipped and rolled for several yards with fatal consequences said they had quarreled with the driver because he seemed sleepy.

One passenger was killed and 45 people were injured in the Sunday crash.

``Everybody was yelling at the driver because he fell asleep twice,'' Brian Jacobs told WKRN-TV after the bus overturned on Interstate 24 northwest of Nashville.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol was expected to release results of their investigation Monday. Kristin Parsley, spokeswoman for Greyhound, would not comment until the investigation was complete.

Ten people remained hospitalized early Monday. Some on board said they rescued three fellow passengers by hoisting the bus off of them before emergency crews arrived.

The 1993 MCI bus was eastbound when it drifted from the right lane to the left lane and hit a median, Department of Safety spokeswoman Dana Keeton said.

When the bus started to slide on wet grass, the driver overcorrected to get back on the road and flipped the bus on its right side.

``The bus actually spun around and overturned,'' Keeton said.

Mark Linder, 33, of Augusta, Ga., died when he was thrown from the vehicle and was trapped underneath it, Keeton said.

Troopers said the driver, Nathaniel B. Waugh, 52, of St. Louis, was treated and released.

Vincent Ford said fellow passengers had been arguing with the driver prior to the wreck. ``They said he was kind of dozing off, and they believe he went on and fell asleep,'' Ford told The Tennessean newspaper in Monday's editions.

Keeton said the description of the crash by witnesses ``fits in with that (a sleepy driver) in that he drifted over, hit the soft ground and then jerked hard back to the right. But until we get that in an official capacity, I can't say for sure.''

The bus door was ripped off its hinges and found about 75 yards from where the bus stopped. All the windows on its right side were broken. Mud streaked the side of the bus where it slid along the ground. Suitcases and clothes littered the crash scene.

``Everybody was scared for their life,'' Jacobs said. ``The bus flipped over and rolled at least two times and fell on its side and slid about two football fields.''

The accident occurred just after 7 a.m. CDT following a stop at the Fort Campbell Army post and Clarksville near the Kentucky border 30 miles northwest of Nashville.

The driver boarded the 47-passenger bus in St. Louis at 12:15 a.m. and was headed to Nashville, where another driver was scheduled to take the bus to Atlanta, said Lynn Brown, another spokeswoman for Dallas-based Greyhound. Greyhound officials said the driver had been off-duty for two days before the wreck.

The accident is the third in Tennessee this summer involving a Greyhound bus.

On July 1, about a dozen people were injured when a Greyhound carrying 36 passengers overturned about 4 a.m. on I-65 some 20 miles north of Nashville. The driver, James Alnuti, ran off the road and hit a tree.

A week later in East Tennessee, a Greyhound bound for Los Angeles overturned along I-40 near Knoxville when the driver swerved to avoid an accident with a tractor-trailer and another truck during a rain storm. Fifteen people were injured.

Greyhound officials said the company has a safety record of 0.55 accidents per 1 million miles, compared to 1.5 accidents per 1 million miles for all commercial vehicles.