A bus crash near Green River, Utah, killed a teenage girl and injured at least a dozen other people after the bus plunged down a wash. Three patients, including the bus driver, are in serious condition. Authorities are now investigating what caused the bus to drive off the highway, but an initial report from Utah Highway Patrol suggests the bus driver may have experienced a medical issue. Safety advocates have long argued for increased safety measures on buses, whether such changes might have prevented serious injuries or death in this crash remains to be seen.
Greyhound Bus Careened Off I-70 on the Way to Las Vegas
On December 31 at around 11:00 p.m., as the Greyhound bus traveled along Interstate 70 west of Green River, Utah, on its way to Las Vegas, the bus suddenly drove off the highway and down a wash, crashing 200 feet away from the highway across a ravine. Authorities do not know what caused the Utah Greyhound bus crash but have said that road conditions were good. No other vehicles were involved in the crash and authorities note there were no witnesses beyond the people on the bus.
Fourteen people were on the bus when it crashed. One person, 13-year-old Summer Pinzon from Azusa, California, died at the scene. Her mother was taken to a nearby hospital, as were twelve other people, three of whom were in serious condition.
“The bus driver and two of the passengers were transported by air ambulance in serious condition, one to Grand Junction, Colorado and the other two to Utah Valley Medical Center in Provo,” Utah Highway Patrol said in a news release.
Among the reported injuries were back and neck injuries. At least one passenger suffered a skull fracture while others suffered broken bones. As of January 2, the bus driver was still in the hospital in critical condition.
Passengers who were not as seriously injured were able to escape through windows and climb for safety. Some passengers were knocked unconscious by the force of the bus accident while others were trapped and required help from their fellow travelers.
“One of the passengers actually climbed out of the bus, and came up to the roadway and flagged down a truck driver, and then they actually called in the accident,” said Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Steve Salas.
The state’s Department of Public Safety Commissioner, Keith Squires, tweeted about the Utah Greyhound bus crash, noting that the bus crashed in a remote area and thanking troopers and first responders for helping the victims.
“Just looking at the impact itself and the amount of energy that was moving forward when that thing collided with the dirt, it is surprising that we didn’t have more fatalities,” Salas told reporters.
Authorities Working to Determine Cause of Utah Greyhound Bus Crash
Authorities say they don’t know what caused the bus to drive off the road, but a news release from the Utah Highway Patrol suggests the bus driver may have experienced a medical event while driving the bus. Investigators will access a camera on the bus to aid in the investigation and determine what happened.
According to reports, the bus had just stopped to allow for a driver shift change before the crash.
“It appears the bus drifted off the shoulder—doesn’t look like there was much braking at all, so we are still investigating at this point,” Salas said.
Utah Highway Patrol investigators are looking into the crash and gathering evidence. The National Safety Transportation Board will also investigate.
Bus Involved in Crash Did Not Have Passenger Seatbelts
According to reports, the bus involved in the crash did not have passenger seatbelts. The only seat belt on the bus was the one for the driver.
Many buses are not required to have seatbelts for passengers, despite a note from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that suggests requiring passenger seatbelts in new buses could reduce the risk of deadly injuries in certain crashes by as much as 77 percent, the majority of those being deaths linked to ejection.
In addition to concerns about seatbelts, safety advocates have also raised concerns about vehicle integrity and driver issues such as fatigue caused by sleep disorders that could increase the risk of a serious bus crash.
Following a fatal Oklahoma crash involving a medium-size bus in 2014, families of the victims advocated for stricter bus safety rules.