SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A bus heading from Toronto to New York City crashed into a wrecked car and a tractor-trailer on Interstate 81 outside Syracuse early Thursday, injuring more than two dozen people, authorities said.
The Pine Hill Trailways bus with 52 passengers on board was travelling south on I-81 around 2:30 a.m. when it slammed into a car that had just crashed into a guard rail and came to rest in the highway’s left lane just south of Syracuse, the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office said.
Deputies said the bus then hit the rear a tractor-trailer whose driver had pulled over on the highway’s shoulder to offer assistance to the car’s driver.
Twenty-six of the passengers and the bus driver were injured, officials said.
It took emergency crews two hours to extricate the driver,Kelvin Sharpe Sr. of Buffalo, from the vehicle’s smashed-in front end, deputies said. He was in critical condition at a Syracuse hospital.
The injured passengers mostly suffered lower extremity, chest, back and facial injuries, all of them apparently minor, police said. They were transported to hospitals in the 10 ambulances and other emergency vehicles that responded to the crash scene.
Thirteen patients were treated at the Upstate University Hospital and 11 of them were released, a spokeswoman said in an email to The Canadian Press.
Onondaga County sheriff’s detective Jon Seeber told the Post-Standard that there was a language barrier between some of the passengers and rescue crews.
Police say the car driver, 36-year-old Robert Tarbell of Nedrow, has been charged with driving while intoxicated. He was being held in the Onondaga County Jail on $15,000 bail.
I-81’s southbound lanes were closed until shortly before 5:30 a.m.
Deputies said the bus left Toronto on Wednesday evening and was scheduled to arrive in New York City around 6:30 a.m. Thursday.
The uninjured passengers were taken to Syracuse’s bus station, where some boarded another bus for Manhattan, while others arranged their own transportation back home.
The bus is owned by Trailways of New York, a Hurley, N.Y.-based company that also operates Adirondack Trailways, New York Trailways and NeOn Bus.
The American Bus Association, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group that issued a statement on behalf of Pine Hill, said the company operates buses daily between Ontario and New York City.
Dan Ronan, an ABA spokesman, said the bus picked up passengers in Buffalo and Rochester. Company officials were still trying to determine where the injured passengers are from, he said.
Robert Johnson told Syracuse’s WSTM-TV that he boarded the bus in Rochester and was awake when the crash occurred, but many of the other passengers were sleeping at the time.
“All I heard was a boom and my head hit the seat; I mean mad noise, it was crazy,” Johnson said. “I never experienced that in my life and I’m still scared to death by it.”