Driver dies as bus carrying Texas students from Disney trip crashes in Alabama

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Rescue crews responded Tuesday to the crash of a bus in Alabama. The bus was carrying Texas high school students returning from Walt Disney World. (Dan Anderson/AP)

The driver died and passengers were injured when a bus carrying band members from a Texas school crashed Tuesday in Alabama, authorities said.

Robyn Bradley Bryan, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, said in an e-mail there were “multiple injuries” in the early morning crash. The injured were taken to hospitals in Alabama and Florida. At a Tuesday morning press conference, Capt. John Malone, of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, told reporters the driver of the bus died in the single-vehicle crash.

The bus was carrying students from a trip to Walt Disney World, Malone said. They were returning to Channelview, Texas, a community about 15 miles from Houston. All the passengers had been accounted for on Tuesday morning.

Channelview Independent School District released a statement confirming 40 students and six adults were aboard the bus at the time of the crash. It was unclear if that total included the driver.

“We are now focused on getting everyone back safely to our community,” the statement said. “We are extremely grateful for the first responders, hospital employees, and volunteers from churches and schools in Alabama and Florida that have stepped up to help our students and comfort them [through] this difficult situation.”

The district knew of “numerous” injuries, the statement said.

First Class Tours, a Houston company, released a statement Tuesday, identifying the deceased driver as Harry Caligone, a long-time employee. The company was “deeply saddened for this loss,” the statement said.

“We offer our heartfelt condolences to his family,” it said. “It is our understanding that there are additional 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.”

The tour bus crashed on Interstate 10 about 5:30 a.m., Malone, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency official, said at the press conference. It left the roadway, went into the median and traveled down a steep embankment.

“We’re looking at everything. Any time there is a loss of life, you’re particularly trying to speak for those who can’t speak,” he said. “But we look at what happened, how it happened, nature of the damage. They’ll inspect the bus, interview any witnesses.”

In a statement posted to its website, Sacred Heart Hospital, in Pensacola, Fla., said it received 20 patients from the crash, 15 of whom were treated and released. Five patients remained in the hospital, the statement said. Two patients were listed in serious condition, and three were listed in good condition.

A video of the press conference was posted to Facebook by WPMI-TV, an NBC affiliate station in Mobile, Ala.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Tuesday issued a statement, saying he was grateful for the actions of emergency workers in Alabama, and would pray for the quick recovery of those who were injured in the crash.

“Texas is prepared to offer any assistance necessary as we rally around the entire Channelview High School community during this difficult time,” he said in the statement.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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