Tour bus crashes on icy interstate over the weekend, killing two

Saturday, February 18th 2006, 8:07 pm
By: News On 6

PAULS VALLEY, Okla. (AP) _ A charter bus overturned along an icy interstate Saturday, killing a woman and an 8-year-old boy, and injuring dozens of others, authorities said.

The bus carrying 45 passengers crashed along Interstate 35 in central Oklahoma, said state Highway Patrol Lt. Stewart Meyer.

``Preliminary indications are that it was due to road conditions,'' Meyer said.

The bus apparently flipped and skidded on its top before coming to rest on its side, said Brent Thompson, a fire department spokesman.

The driver, Miguel Esquada of Fort Worth, Texas, said through an interpreter that he hit the brakes when a car pulled in front of him suddenly and that the bus began to overturn.

The boy, who was sitting in the middle of the bus, was thrown through a window, and the bus fell on top of him, Esquada said.

``We were actually able to talk to the little boy while he was trapped under the bus,'' he said. Firefighters used air bags to lift the bus and were able to remove him.

``As we started lifting, he was still with us, but shortly thereafter he lost consciousness,'' Thompson said.

Meyer identified the boy as Jay Elizondo and the woman as 28-year-old Rochio Jara, who was riding in the back of the bus. Their hometowns were not available.

Many passengers panicked, said Jose Nunez, 23, one of several passengers who remained at a hospital Saturday afternoon.

``There was a lady asking for help, but I couldn't help her because she was stuck,'' Nunez said through an interpreter.

Lourdes Ciellodeheja, who sat with her bruised leg elevated on a chair, escaped through a window as the bus was tipping over but hit her head on the ground, she said through an interpreter.

``I got one foot out of the way of the bus but not the other,'' she said. ``I thought I was going to die.''

Two people were critically injured and flown to a hospital in Oklahoma City, Meyer said. At least two were taken to a hospital in Norman.

Some of the more serious injuries included broken bones, severe lacerations and internal injuries, Thompson said.

Most of the passengers were treated for minor injuries, said Tony Malaska, a spokesman for the Pauls Valley Hospital.

The bus was registered to El Conejo Bus Lines and was traveling from Kansas to Dallas, said Ana Gonzalez, an employee at El Conejo's Dallas office.

El Conejo arranged temporary housing for passengers at a hotel, officials said.