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Bus taking family home from reunion crashes

A bus crashed on Interstate 65 in southern Kentucky early Monday, killing one person and injuring as many as 66 others, emergency officials said.
Bus Crash
Emergency services workers on Monday inspect the wreckage of a tour bus that hit a pillar near Smiths Grove, Ky., killing one person and injuring 66.John Russell / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A tour bus carrying members of an extended Alabama family home from a reunion in New York veered off a southern Kentucky highway early Monday and slammed into an overpass, killing one person and injuring 66 others.

State police said the driver apparently dozed off shortly before 3 a.m., while most of the passengers were asleep. The bus veered off Interstate 65, struck an earthen embankment and rammed a concrete bridge pillar about 75 miles north of Nashville.

No charges have been filed against the driver, who was hospitalized in critical condition.

Red Cross officials said about half of the injured passengers were children.

Hours later, as authorities worked to remove the shattered bus from the roadside, children’s pink suitcases, blankets and other luggage were still piled along the highway.

The bus had been rented by a family returning to Alabama from a reunion in Buffalo, N.Y. Trooper Steve Pavey said the reunion was at Niagara Falls, near Buffalo.

Mary Hill, who said most of those on the bus were her cousins, drove five hours from Alabama after learning that her brother was among the injured.

“He said everyone was so hysterical,” she said. “Everyone was trying to find the kids.”

The passengers included about 40 members of the Jackson family from Forkland, Ala., and several town officials, said Cynthia K. Stone, city clerk in the west Alabama community of 630 people.

Kentucky State Police identified the woman who died as Carrie Walton, 71, who was thrown from the bus.

Walton was “a very lovely person,” Stone said. “She was a wonderful mother, grandmother. Her family was the most important thing to her.”

Some of the bus passengers treated at the scene wore T-shirts commemorating the Hamilton Jackson Hendricks Family Reunion.

By early afternoon, a number of the injured passengers had been released from four hospitals and were taken to a shelter the Red Cross set up at a church. Some had bandages on their heads and arms, and some needed wheelchairs or crutches.

At least two of the injured passengers were reported in critical condition Monday afternoon, including one child and the driver, identified by state police as Abraham Parker, 63, of Birmingham, Ala.

Clarence Williams, president of C & R Tours, confirmed the company had rented the bus for the family trip to New York state. He did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press seeking additional comment after state police released their preliminary finding on the cause of the crash.

The company had a satisfactory safety rating when it was last reviewed in March, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. It had not reported any accidents or injuries in the last two years.