ROBERTSDALE, Ala. (WEAR) - A charter bus carrying high school students from Texas plunged down a 50-foot-deep ravine in Southern Alabama at 5:33 a.m. Tuesday. The crash occurred off Interstate 10, east of Wilcox Road in the westbound lane. The bus driver was killed, Alabama state troopers confirm.
Authorities said at least 43 people were accounted for when the charter bus headed from Houston crashed. At least two buses were traveling together. The Baldwin County Sheriff's Office confirms the buses were coming from Walt Disney World, carrying students from Channelview High School in Channelview, Texas. In a news conference, Baldwin County authorities said the bus somehow got into the median and tumbled down an embankment. The bus that crashed was in the rear. The other bus is en route to Texas.
Authorities say one person suffered critical injuries, five people suffered serious injuries, and the rest of the injuries were minor. One Baldwin County Sheriff's Office deputy suffered minor injuries.
“We have one confirmed fatality. We utilized 10 different hospitals, where individuals have been transported to Sacred Heart, Baptist, University of West Florida Hospital in Florida, South Baldwin Regional Medical Center, Thomas Hospital, Thomas Hospital Emergency Urgent Care and USA Hospital in Alabama," Baldwin County Sheriff Hoss Mack said.
Any parent who wants to pick up their child can go to Coastal Church located at 11101 County Road 64, Daphne, Alabama 36526.
"We are housing the youth until their parents arrive from Houston. We are serving them, along with the sheriff's department, the Red Cross, United Way of Baldwin County and the staff pastors of Coastal Church. We have counselors on staff that are ready to help the children until their parents arrive," said Jennifer Stafford, administrative assistant for the church.
People wanting to know the status of their loved ones are urged to call the Baldwin County Call Center at 251-972-6807. They will be able to learn the hospitals the victims have been taken to and where they will be discharged from.
The Channelview Independent School District issued the following statement:
"A charter bus transporting Channelview High School band students was involved in an accident on Interstate 10 in Alabama early this morning. At this time, details are limited. We are in contact with law enforcement in Alabama trying to obtain further information."
First Class Tours issued the following statement:
"A serious accident has taken place involving a First Class Tours bus in Alabama this morning. The bus was carrying a group of band students from Channelview High School who were returning home to Houston from Orlando.It is our understanding that there are injuries as a result of the accident. Our prayers are with the injured and their families at this time.We pledge our assistance in cooperating with local authorities in the investigation.Presently, this is all the information that we have to share. We will provide updates as additional information becomes available and it is appropriate to do so."
Authorities told Channel 3 News they shut down I-10 in both directions, so helicopters could land to transport the injured.
Traffic was being diverted to exit 49. Alabama and Florida state troopers were diverting motorists off the interstate onto Highway 90.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency has taken the lead in this investigation. ABC News has confirmed that the NTSB is sending a team of six to investigate the accident.
Numerous emergency personnel from multiple agencies responded to the scene. First responders from Daphne, Alabama, to Pensacola, Florida, were responding.
Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola confirmed 18 patients had been transported there. Baptist Hospital reported two patients would be transported there. The number of victims taken to West Florida Hospital was not immediately known.
Escambia County Area Transit was reportedly sending a bus to the scene to assist with transports. ECAT transported 22 students to a rest stop away from the scene.