Charter bus wreck in Irving a hellish scene

Posted Thursday, Apr. 11, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Blood needed

Carter Blood Care is seeking blood donations, saying preferred levels were already low even prior to an Irving bus crash that injured 41 people.

"It would be great to help replenish the supplies. We were already at less than preferred levels," said Yesenia Olide.

Olide said Carter Blood Care supplies 90 percent of blood products to the Dallas-Fort Worth area and is the sole provider for Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, where 15 of the those injured in Thursday's bus crash were taken.

Though in need of all blood types, Olide said the agency is seeking 200 O negative blood donors daily for the next two weeks.

"When a trauma victim comes into the hospital, they don't have time to (blood) type them right away," Olide said. "If they're needing, O negative is what they're going to get because that is compatible with most blood types."

Those interested in donating blood can contact Carter Blood Care at 1-800-366-2834 or www.carterbloodcare.org.

Passenger information

Family members seeking information on bus passengers can call 972-721-4636.

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IRVING — Dan Risik was sitting comfortably in his seat Thursday morning, chatting with his friend and looking forward to a day of gambling in Oklahoma.

Seconds later, after the bus veered across a busy Irving freeway and crashed, he was on his side, trapped under a female passenger in a tangled mass of screaming people and blood.

“I couldn’t move because there was a lady on top of me and she couldn’t move,” said Risik, 73, of Fort Worth. “She was really buckled in there real bad and my foot was caught under her. People were hollering and screaming and there was blood all over the place.”

Risik considers himself one of the lucky ones.

Though he suffered a bloody nose and sore back, Risik said he was otherwise unscathed in the Thursday morning bus crash in Irving that left two passengers dead and 41 others injured.

The two passengers who died, both women, were identified Thursday as Paula Hahn, 69, of Fort Worth and Sue Taylor, 81, of Hurst. Both were pronounced dead at the scene, said Sgt. Lonny Haschel, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety. Taylor, who also went by "Casino Sue," is believed to have been the organizer of the trip to the Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, Okla.

Surviving passengers were transported to five different hospitals. Fifteen of the most seriously injured were taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, which went to “Code Yellow,” notifying personnel to be ready for casualties, according to Dr. Alex Eastman, interim trauma medical director.

Four were critical and one underwent surgery, he said.

The driver was Lloyd Rieve, 65, of Dallas, Haschel said. He was listed in serious condition at Parkland early Thursday evening, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The Parkland patients ranged in age from 66 to 80. All arrived with multiple injuries, and all were talking, Dr. Eastman said.

The bus, operated by Cardinal Coach Lines, and its 44 passengers comprised of mostly retirees and senior citizens had been headed to the casino in Durant for a day trip.

According to a flier found at the crash site, the trip was organized by “Casino Sue” and it cost $10 per person.

“A lot of the people know each other from previous trips,” said Risik, who has been on previous such trips. “Others bring friends and family.”

Risik and his friend, Ken, had been among passengers picked up at 8 a.m. at the Walmart at Eastchase Parkway and Interstate 30 in Fort Worth. At 8:30 a.m., other passengers boarded at a second stop at a shopping center in Bedford, he said.

“Before we left, the bus driver got up and introduced himself,” Risik said. “He’s been driving for 30 years so he was very, very experienced, to say the least.”

‘Crash, bang , boom’

The crash happened about 9:10 a.m., according to the Irving Fire Department.

Haschel said the bus was northbound on Texas 161 at Belt Line Road when, for a still undetermined reason, it veered right and struck a rubber barrier. The bus then careened left, traveling across two lanes and into a grassy area, where it struck and slid along a concrete barrier, ending up on its side.

“If it hadn’t been for the concrete barrier, the bus would have been into the southbound lanes,” Haschel said.

Risik said that he had no idea what caused the crash, but that a female passenger told him after the wreck that she believed the bus had a tire blowout.

“We were moving right along,” Risik said. “All of a sudden — crash, bang, boom.”

Haschel said it was too early to determine if the bus had a blowout.

He said DPS troopers were interviewing passengers and motorists who witnessed the crash and that “it’s going to take some time to complete this investigation.”

Investigators will be looking into the bus company, the driver and road conditions, among other things, Haschel said.

The National Transportation Safety Board also sent two of its investigators, stationed in Arlington, to get information about the wreck.

“There is not a lot of information right now,” said Keith Holloway, an NTSB spokesman in Washington. “It depends on what we find, but we may use (the information) as an investigation, or to make recommendations on a relevant safety issue, at some point.”

Bus safety a concern

Officials with Cardinal Coach Lines, which is based in Grand Prairie, declined to comment Thursday.

The company’s website, however, touts its safety record and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that Cardinal has had no wrecks in the past 24 months. In its last review, the company had a satisfactory rating, which meant the company had no safety deficiencies.

Records kept by the FMCSA show that a Cardinal bus involved in Thursday's wreck was inspected by the Texas Department of Public Safety on April 4 and that the driver was cited for speeding and a driver log book violation.

Neither incident was considered serious enough to warrant an “out of service order” and the company is not considered a “high-risk” carrier, according to the FMCSA.

Although the cause of Thursday’s crash has yet to be determined, bus safety has been an ongoing issue for the motorcoach industry.

The NTSB’s Hollway said “bus operator safety is on our most wanted list.”

And earlier this month the FMCSA reported that it had shut down 15 passenger carriers across the United States for safety concerns.

“... Seven were declared imminent hazards and eight were rated ‘unsatisfactory’ following safety compliance reviews. During the same time period, FMCSA and its state enforcement partners have conducted more than 13,500 roadside inspections, resulting in nearly 1,500 driver and vehicle out-of-service violations being issued,” according to an April 5 news release.

The American Bus Association said in an April 8 news release that it “vigorously supports FMCSA’s efforts to shutdown illegally operating companies or those FMCSA has found to be an imminent threat to public safety.”

The American Bus Association has also created a new safety brochure called “Before you Hire a Mortocoach Company: What You Need to Know.”

It said its goal, by the end of 2013, will be for inspectors to visit every motorcoach company in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety database and “have one safety standard for all companies operating at the top level, much like what is being done in the airline industry.”

‘We started triage immediately’

Risik said he had been seated in an aisle seat near the middle of the bus when it crashed in Irving.

“All I know is all of a sudden the bus started to shake and rattle real bad like a crash sound,” said Risik. “The next thing I knew we were laying on our side and people were hollering and screaming on top of each other.”

Risik’s friend, Ken, had been seated by the window.

“He was on the bottom when it fell on the right side,” Risik said. “I guess he’s lucky, too. He could have been killed.”

By Thursday afternoon, Risik was still trying to reach his friend, Ken, who had complained while still trapped in the bus of pain to his right shoulder and leg.

“He tried to tell me, ‘Get off me!. Get off me!,’” Risik recalled. “I said, ‘I can’t. I can’t get this lady off me.’ I tried like heck to dislodge my foot but I couldn’t.”

Risik said he was eventually freed after rescue crews arrived and pulled the woman off him. He hasn’t seen Ken since and was still trying to reach him Thursday afternoon by phone.

“It took a while. It’s not like they arrive and everybody walks off and gets off the bus,” Risik said. “It took a while to peel people off of each other and get them out. The front was wide open but there was so much wreckage and what have you, most of the people I think were evacuated through escape hatches in the ceiling.”

At one point during the chaotic event, emergency crews could be heard searching for the severed arm of one passenger, who was being transported to Parkland.

Firefighters, some using a ladder, worked to free passengers trapped inside the bus. Other passengers were carried out on back boards or were sitting on blankets in the grass.

One witness, Robert Hare, told NBC 5 that “bodies and blood” were everywhere and that people were stacked on top of each other, screaming for help.

Rusty Wilson, Irving’s assistant fire chief, said once passengers were removed “we started triage immediately.”

He said that passengers were taken to hospitals in Las Colinas, Irving and Dallas.

Haschel said it was fortunate that there are “very well-trained first responders” in the region.

‘Fortunate more people weren’t killed’

Not long after the crash, Risik said he received a phone call from his sister.

“My sister called from Vermont. She had seen it on TV,” Risik said. “I called some people and let them know I was OK and not to be concerned.”

While still at the scene, Risik said he approached a man whom he believed to be the bus driver after the crash.

“There was a guy standing there with a lot of blood on his face. I think that was him,” Risik said. “He didn’t say much. He was kind of — I don’t want to say dazed — but kind of in semi-shock or something. I asked him what happened but he didn’t really respond.”

Eventually, Risik said he and the other “walking wounded” were taken by bus to Baylor Medical Center at Irving for precautionary X-rays.

Though the loss from the crash is tragic, Risik also called it “unbelievable” that so many people were able to walk away from such a horrific crash at highway speeds.

“It’s fortunate that more people weren’t killed or severely injured,” he said. “At that speed, it’s amazing.”

News researcher Cathy Belcher and staff writers Bill Hanna, Dustin Dangli and Bill Miller contributed to this report.

Deanna Boyd, (817) 390-7655

Twitter: @deannaboyd

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Texas 161 and Belt Line, Irving, TX
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