Driver charged after Salisbury reservists injured in bus crash
MOORESVILLE — Nearly 30 people, including one woman with serious injuries, were taken to area hospitals after a bus carrying Army Reservists overturned in Mooresville on Friday afternoon.
Investigators say the chartered bus with 45 people on board slid off the road and down a muddy embankment while slowing for turning traffic on N.C. 150 near the intersection of Oak Meadow Road.
The accident happened just before 3 p.m.
The N.C. State Highway Patrol said one female soldier was airlifted with serious, non-life threatening injuries to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. But Jason Little, a shift supervisor with EMS in Iredell County, said her injuries are life-threatening.
In addition, 16 were transported by Medic bus to Carolinas Medical Center-Huntersville, four to Iredell Memorial Hospital in Statesville and eight, including the driver, were transported to Lake Norman Regional Hospital. The Highway Patrol reported that these patients had minor injuries. The rest of those on board were assessed and treated on the scene.
The Highway Patrol trooper has charged the bus driver with failure to maintain lane control. No names have been released.
The U.S. Army Reserve members are from the 991st Transportation Company based in Salisbury. Two buses from Holiday Tours, based in Huntersville, picked the reservists up at the Charlotte airport after a training exercise took them to Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.
The bus that was not involved in the accident returned to the Lucas U.S. Army Reserve Center on Jake Alexander Boulevard. It had been carrying 35 people.
Witnesses at the accident scene told investigators that they saw the rear tires skidding as the bus was slowing down, said Highway Patrol Trooper Brett Marr.
“When the tires went off the road, the shoulder was so wet that it just slid off the road and the embankment gave way,” Marr said. “There’s been so much rain that it’s soft.”
N.C. 150 was closed to traffic at the scene, not far from N.C. 152, for at least four hours. Emergency crews used a crane to turn the toppled bus upright.
The bus was the only vehicle involved in the accident. The Highway Patrol is investigating, and State Highway Patrol Motor Carrier troopers were on the scene to assist in the investigation.
Sgt. 1st Class Ella Griffin, of the 991st Transportation Co., said that she had been in contact with the soldiers and that, as far as she knew, no one had been seriously injured.
She said family members were already gathering at the Reserve Center in Salisbury to pick up soldiers, who had been in Wisconsin for their annual training exercise. Griffin said she could not comment further without clearance from her commanding officer.
The second bus arrived in Salisbury shortly before 5 p.m. and then departed to collect other Reservists at the accident scene. Both times it arrived, the baggage was unloaded quickly and the soldiers went inside without comment to meet family members who had been gathered there already, awaiting their return.
A soldier getting off the bus told a Salisbury Post correspondent that the other bus was behind them when it flipped on its side. “I hope everyone is OK,” she said, before going inside the building.
Another Reserve soldier, who did not give her name, said she had no knowledge of the extent of the accident.
She said her bus had turned around when they got news of the accident, and that they had only gotten “bits and pieces” of information.
“When we got there, the bus was on its side,” the soldier said.
Iredell and Rowan County EMS, South Iredell Fire Department, Mooresville Fire-Rescue and Mooresville Rescue Squad all responded to the accident. Emergency personnel helped free the Reservists and their driver from the bus.
“They used what we call rescue struts to shore up the bus and make sure it didn’t move anymore,” Little said. “That’s a large concern on a hill, especially in mud. Then they tunnelled inside the bus — I’m not sure what cuts they made — to free them.”
While there were an unusually large number of patients, Little said the soldiers’ training helped emergency workers quickly perform triage and get control of the scene.
“It’s good that we have a commanding officer to tell him what we need to do for these folks and for him be able to give orders to make it happen,” Little said. “I told them we need the injured here and the uninjured here. They were able to do that until we got more resources here.”
Crews from the NC Department of Transportation began making repairs in the crash area after tow trucks removed the bus and environmental cleanup was completed.
Correspondent Hugh Fisher contributed to this report.