Monique Berry, of Harlem, N.Y, was the first bus passenger to be released from an area hospital and arrive at a reunion center set up by officials in Prince George County.
“All I know, I went to close my eyes and we were moving too fast,” she said. “It swerved like a roller coaster. We tumbled five or six times. It wasn’t less than that.”
She gingerly got out of a taxi that had brought her to the reunion center from Swift Creek Emergency Center, where she was treated for minor bruises.
Berry said that when she came to inside the bus, a man next to her grabbed her and they crawled out a window.
“I was OK,” she said. “I had one shoe on.”
She described the scene as chaotic. People were screaming and lying in the mud.
“I thought that was it,” she remembered thinking as the bus tumbled.
“I made it. I just want to get home,” she told reporters.
Then came questions of where her luggage and cellphone ended up, and how she would get home.
“I don’t know if they’ll send another bus,” she said. “I don’t know how I’m going to do the ride.”
Two people are dead after a discount-fare bus carrying 57 people crashed in Prince George County on Tuesday morning. Numerous other passengers are being treated at area hospitals.
The Virginia State Police said charges are pending against the driver of the bus, a 40-year-old man from Staten Island, N.Y., who was not injured in the crash. Police have not named him yet.
Officials said 55 bus passengers were taken to area hospitals and that two of the survivors suffered life-threatening injuries.
The single-vehicle crash happened at 5:22 a.m. when a Tao’s Travel Inc. bus overturned at a ramp for Exit 45. The bus was headed north on I-95 from Florida to New York City when it attempted to take the exit ramp, the state police said.
The vehicle ran off the left side of the ramp and overturned.
The bus had departed from Orlando, Fla., and had stopped in Rocky Mount, N.C., to switch drivers, the authorities said. It was continuing north to its final destination in New York City when the crash occurred.
The state police said they have been told 57 people were aboard the bus — 56 passengers and the driver. Of the two confirmed fatalities, one died at the scene and the second died a few hours later at Southside Regional Medical Center.
State police Sgt. Keeli Hill said it is unclear whether Tuesday morning’s foggy conditions were a factor in the crash, but officials said the fog prevented rescuers from using a helicopter to transport victims.
Brad Owens, director of fire and EMS for Prince George, said rescuers treated the scene as a mass casualty situation and went into triage mode. The 55 victims were taken to several hospitals from Emporia up to Richmond. The most severely injured were transported by ambulance and the ones with less serious injuries were taken by a mass casualty vehicle.
As patients are released, area hospitals are providing transportation to a Family Reunification Center at the Prince George County Central Wellness Center at 11023 Prince George Drive in Disputanta. Family members can call the Prince George County Emergency Services Center at (804) 733-2659 for information related to those on the bus.
Meanwhile, a representative with the Virginia State Police Motor Carrier Safety Team is at the crash scene assisting with the investigation, and the National Transportation Safety Board has been notified. Prince George Fire and EMS personnel have been on the scene as well.
Tao’s Travel Inc. had permission to pick people up and drop them off every day in Chinatown, according to a New York City bus stop permit. The drop-off time on Tuesdays is at 11:30 a.m., the permit says.
Federal records show Tao’s Travel — based in Middleton, Mass. — has a satisfactory safety rating, with no crashes in the past two years. The company owns four passenger coaches and employs eight drivers, according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records.
A man who answered the phone number listed for Tao’s Travel said Tuesday that the company is investigating but had no comment on the crash.
As of 9:30 a.m., several fire trucks and at least five ambulances were on the scene in and around the ramp where the bus crashed. At least 20 fire, EMS and police personnel were gathered near the scene.
After the crash, Prince George police urged motorists to be cautious during their morning commute as officers were responding to multiple crashes due to thick fog.
Freezing fog reduced visibility throughout southeastern Virginia on Tuesday morning.
The weather station at Dinwiddie County Airport, nine miles west-northwest of the accident site, reported 0.25 mile visibility at the time of the accident with a temperature of 28 degrees.
The National Weather Service in Wakefield issued a special weather statement about the freezing fog at 1:56 a.m., advising motorists to be alert for sudden changes in visibility.
Freezing fog can create a thin coating of ice on exposed surfaces, though road surface temperatures remained above freezing across central and eastern Virginia according to the NWS.
(This is breaking news. This story will be updated.)