'There was blood all over the place'

Posted Friday, Apr. 12, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

Blood donors needed

Carter BloodCare is seeking blood donations, saying supplies were low before the bus crash Thursday that injured 41 people.

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

Carter BloodCare supplies 90 percent of blood products in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and is the sole provider for Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, where 15 of the injured were taken.

All blood types are needed, but the agency is especially seeking 200 O negative blood donors daily for the next two weeks, she said.

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

To donate, contact Carter BloodCare at 800-366-2834 or www.carterbloodcare.org.

Passenger information

Relatives seeking information about bus passengers can call 972-721-4636.

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IRVING -- Dan Risik was sitting comfortably in an aisle seat of a chartered bus Thursday morning, chatting with a friend and looking forward to a day at an Oklahoma casino.

Seconds later, after the bus veered across a busy Irving freeway and crashed, he was lying on his side, trapped under a woman in a blood-soaked tangle of people screaming for help.

"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. He got a bloody nose and has a sore back. Two passengers were killed, and 41 people, including the driver, were injured.

The dead were identified 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, whose nickname was "Casino Sue," was believed to have organized the trip. The bus, operated by Cardinal Coach Line, had 44 passengers, mostly retirees and senior citizens who were on a day trip to the Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, Okla.

The injured were taken to five hospitals.

Fifteen of the most seriously injured were taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, which went to code yellow, which means that personnel were alerted that multiple injured people were on the way and trauma teams formed, according to Dr. Alex Eastman, interim trauma medical director.

Four were admitted in critical condition, and one underwent surgery, he said. They ranged in age from 66 to 80. All arrived with multiple injuries, but all were talking, Eastman said.

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

'Crash, bang, boom'

"A lot of the people know each other from previous trips," said Risik, who had taken the trip to the casino before. "Others bring friends and family."

Risik and a friend, Ken, were among passengers picked up at 8 a.m. at the Wal-Mart at Eastchase Parkway and Interstate 30 in Fort Worth. At 8:30 a.m., other passengers boarded 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."

The crash occurred 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 it veered right and struck a rubber barrier. The bus then careened left, crossed two lanes and went 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 he had no idea what caused the crash.

"We were moving right along," Risik said. "All of a sudden -- crash, bang, boom."

DPS troopers interviewed passengers and motorists who witnessed the crash and will investigate the bus company, the driver and the road conditions, among other things.

"It's going to take some time to complete this investigation," Haschel said.

The National Transportation Safety Board also sent two investigators who are stationed in Arlington.

Not a 'high-risk' carrier

Officials with Cardinal Coach Line, based in Grand Prairie, declined to comment Thursday. The company's website touts its safety record.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records show that no Cardinal buses have been in wrecks in the past 24 months. In its last review, the company had a satisfactory rating, which meant it had no safety deficiencies. The company is not considered a "high-risk" carrier, according to the federal agency.

The records do show that on April 4, the DPS cited a Cardinal bus driver for speeding and a driver logbook violation.

This month, the federal agency 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 a news release Monday that it "vigorously supports FMCSA's efforts to shut down illegally operating companies or those FMCSA has found to be an imminent threat to public safety."

The American Bus Association has also created a safety brochure called "Before you Hire a Motorcoach Company: What You Need to Know."

By the end of 2013, the bus association said, the goal will be for inspectors to visit every motor coach company in the safety administration database and "have one safety standard for all companies operating at the top level, much like what is being done in the airline industry."

Immediate triage

Risik said he was in an aisle seat near the middle of the bus.

"All of a sudden, the bus started to shake and rattle real bad," Risik said. "The next thing I knew, we were on our side, and people were hollering and screaming on top of each other."

Risik's friend Ken was seated by a 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."

After emergency crews arrived, "it took a while to peel people off of each other and get them out," Risik said. "The front was wide open, but there was so much wreckage and what have you, most of the people were evacuated through escape hatches in the ceiling."

At one point, emergency workers could be heard searching for the severed arm of a passenger who was being transported to Parkland.

Rusty Wilson, Irving's assistant fire chief, said that as passengers were removed, "we started triage immediately."

The injured were taken to hospitals in Las Colinas, Irving and Dallas, he said.

Haschel said it is fortunate that the region has "very well-trained first responders."

Feeling 'fortunate'

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

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

"It's fortunate that more people weren't killed or severely injured," he said.

"At that speed, it's amazing."

Thursday afternoon, he didn't know what happened to Ken and was still trying to reach him by phone.

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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