ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (CBSLA/AP) — At least eight people were killed when a Greyhound bus bound for Southern California collided with a semi-truck in New Mexico Thursday afternoon.
A blown tire on the big rig may be to blame for the collision which occurred along Interstate 40 near the Arizona border, according to authorities.
There were 49 passengers aboard the bus, several of whom were being treated at multiple area hospitals. Authorities couldn’t immediately provide an exact count of how many were hurt or their conditions.
Officials at University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque said Friday that 10 passengers, including three children, were being treated at their hospital. Two of the children are being treated in the hospital’s neonatal unit.
Hospital officials said the patients also included an adult in critical condition and two others in intensive care.
Some patients are expected to undergo surgery. Doctors say many face long periods of recovery and that injuries ranged from head trauma to spine fractures and broken bones.
It is also unclear if any of the passengers hurt or killed are from Southern California.
Chris Jones of Hemet was headed west on Interstate 40 when he caught his first glimpse of the semi turned over. He saw the rest of the wreckage and stopped to help before coming across the driver of the semi sitting on the shoulder of the highway.
He said the driver told him that one of his front tires had popped, forcing the truck to veer into oncoming traffic, where it struck the bus.
Jones told CBS2 he was one of the first drivers who left his vehicle in the middle of I-40 to help those who were seriously hurt. He said his medical training as a Navy veteran and volunteer firefighter proved fortuitous.
“I don’t know exactly if people were launched out of the bus or not, all I know is there were people out of the bus, they were climbing out of the bus, they couldn’t get out fast enough,” Jones told CBS2.
“It was horrible,” witness Marc Gonzalez told KRQE. “There was people trying to climb out of the windows of the bus … bystanders trying to help people getting ladders out of their truck to get to windows of Greyhound bus to assist.
“When we went by the overturned semi, everything in the trailer was out on the road. It was a disaster… You could tell people were in distress; screams were coming from the bus.”
New Mexico State Police said the semi was headed east on Interstate 40 Thursday afternoon, near the town of Thoreau, when one of its tires blew, sending the rig carrying produce across the median and into oncoming traffic, where it slammed into the Greyhound.
I-40 was shut down for nearly eight hours, KRQE reports. Traffic was backed up for miles as travelers were diverted.
The bus was headed to Phoenix, then to San Bernardino, and eventually downtown Los Angeles, where, prior to the crash, it was scheduled to arrive at 1 p.m. Friday.
The National Transportation Safety Board and New Mexico state police are investigating.
Passing motorists described a chaotic scene with passengers on the ground and people screaming.
Eric Huff was heading to the Grand Canyon with his girlfriend when they came across the crash. The semi’s trailer was upside down and “shredded to pieces,” and the front of the Greyhound bus was smashed, he said, with many of the seats pressed together. Part of the side of the bus was torn off, he said.
“It was an awe-inspiring, terrible scene,” he said.
Truck driver Santos Soto III shot video showing the front of the Greyhound sheared off and the semi split open, with its contents strewn across the highway.
He saw people sobbing on the side of the road as bystanders tried to comfort them.
“I was really traumatized myself, because I’ve been driving about two years and I had never seen anything like that before,” Soto said.
“I’m a pretty strong person and I broke down and cried for at least 30 minutes,” he added.
“We are fully cooperating with local authorities and will also complete an investigation of our own,” Greyhound spokeswoman Crystal Booker said in a statement.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)