Katrina evacuee bus overturns, killing one

/ Source: The Associated Press

A bus shuttling hurricane victims out of New Orleans crashed Friday after one of the passengers grew agitated and ended up in a struggle with the driver, killing one person and injuring more than a dozen, a police official said.

Police Capt. Mark LeBlanc said that after the tussle, the driver lost control of the bus, sending it across a median and overturning on the other side of the highway, about 130 miles west of New Orleans.

There were between 45 and 50 passengers on board, and 17 of them were injured, police said.

All the passengers on the bus — many of whom were getting some much-needed shuteye after days of sleeplessness inside the Superdome — were brought to local hospitals for evaluation and treatment.

“We have multiple critical injuries and multiple serious injuries and some minor injuries,” said Trooper Willie Williams, spokesman for the state police.

The bus was the last of five charter buses in a convoy from New Orleans. It was unclear where the storm victims were being taken.

One passenger, however, disputed accounts of a struggle causing the crash.

Steven Francis, 32, of New Orleans, told The Associated Press as he left a hospital for a shelter that he didn’t see anyone threaten the driver or fight with him.

The driver was looking away from the road, looking down, and swerved at the last minute to avoid another vehicle, Francis said.

“I thought it was all over with for me,” said Francis, who had 15 stitches in a cut on his head.

Richard Grow, 32, of New Orleans, said he and most of the other passengers on the bus were asleep when the accident happened. He didn’t even know where the bus was traveling.

“I didn’t even think to ask, I was just happy to get out of the Superdome,” he said.

He said the accident left one man with his arm severed.

Mike Sawyer, 56, of San Diego, Calif., was a passenger on the bus, but was not injured. He had been visiting New Orleans when the hurricane hit, and spent five days in the Superdome.

“Isn’t that a jinx? Or it’s just a coincidence,” Sawyer said of all the hardship of the past several days.