Passengers of an overturned Greyhound bus stand near the scene.
(Photo: Nick Daggy, AP)
(USA Today) -- Only six passengers, plus the driver, remain hospitalized by mid-afternoon after a Greyhound bus crash on Interstate 75 in southwest Ohio early Saturday morning.
The bus with 51 passengers tumbled off I-75 and flipped on its side in a cornfield, injuring at least 34 and shutting down the highway's northbound lanes for hours. The crash happened shortly before 4 a.m..
Dozens of injured passengers were taken to six hospitals from Middletown to Cincinnati and at least two people suffered serious injuries, police said. None of the injuries are believed to be life-threatening, said Liberty Township Fire Chief Paul Stumpf.
"We are very lucky," Stumpf said. "The injuries are not as serious as they could have been"
The driver and one passenger were trapped in the bus when crews arrived and were extricated relatively easily. Lt. Ed. Mejia of the Ohio State Highway Patrol said the people who were trapped suffered compound fractures.
Most of the injured people were taken to hospitals in ambulances, but six went on medical helicopters. Greyhound dispatched an additional bus to transport the uninjured passengers, who were on their way from Cincinnati to Detroit when the accident occurred.
Crews were responding to an unrelated crash on Ohio 129 near I-75 when they received the call for the Greyhound crash, Stumpf said. The only occupant of that vehicle was ejected from the car and killed.
Police and Greyhound officials said the cause of the crash was not immediately known. The Ohio Highway Patrol and Butler County Sheriff's office are investigating, and the U.S. Department of Transportation will inspect the bus Monday.
A Greyhound spokeswoman said the driver of the bus, Dwayne Garrett of Cincinnati, 64, has been with the company for 15 years and was on the job for one hour at the time of the crash.
"The driver was fully rested," said Kim Plaskett, the company spokeswoman.
Plaskett said the bus underwent its major annual inspection just 14 days ago and "there were no issues with the bus." The bus was built in 1999 and was refurbished a few years ago, Plaskett said.
She said the bus also should have undergone a routine visual inspection before leaving Cincinnati for Detroit Saturday morning. According to the Department of Transportation, the bus also underwent surprise inspections twice in the last two years, passing them both.
Greyhound received a satisfactory rating - the highest rating possible - from the Department of Transportation in 2010. The rating is based on a company-wide safety audit that includes reviews of maintenance records, driver records and other data.
In the last two years, Greyhound buses have been involved in 102 crashes, three involving fatalities and 57 involving injuries. Nationally, in 2011 alone, there were 54,000 accidents involving buses, with 283 fatalities and 2,400 injuries.
"This kind of an accident is rare," Plaskett said of the Liberty Township crash.
Keppler agreed that Greyhound's overall safety record is very good compared with the rest of the industry, but that low-cost carriers have put pressure on expenses across the industry, leading to more accidents and more effort by law enforcement agencies to do more inspections.
"Greyhound takes safety very seriously ... but the low-cost carriers have created a changing dynamic within the industry," Keppler said, pointing out that the national crash numbers have risen every year between 2009 and 2011.
About 80 emergency personnel initially responded to the accident and within 15 minutes about 15 medic units were at the scene. "We had an excellent response," Stumpf said.
The most seriously injured passengers were flown to Miami Valley Hospital and University of Cincinnati Medical Center. Others went to Middletown Atrium, Bethesda North, West Chester Medical Center and Fairfield Mercy.
An Atrium spokeswoman said the 13 passengers taken there suffered minor to severe injuries to the head, neck and back. She said 11 of the 13 were released from the hospital by late morning and the remaining two would be admitted.
Thirteen of the 14 passengers taken to West Chester also have been released.
Dan Horn, James Pilcher, Adam Kiefaber and Cliff Peale contributed to this story.