At least one person who was injured when a charter bus slammed into an overpass Saturday night in Boston remained in critical condition on Sunday as State Police identified the driver in the crash, which injured more than 30 high school students from Pennsylvania and their chaperones.
The group was heading home to the Philadelphia area after a visit to Harvard University.
The driver, Samuel J. Jackson, 66, of Philadelphia had not been charged with a crime as of Sunday evening, and the investigation was ongoing, said David Procopio, a State Police spokesman. There was no indication Jackson was impaired at the time, he said. Calls to a number listed for Jackson were not returned.
Procopio said authorities are conducting a thorough examination of the bus, and a collision reconstruction team’s report will take up to six weeks to complete.
Jackson was driving the Calvary Coach bus on Soldiers Field Road when its roof struck the Western Avenue Bridge at about 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
State Police said Sunday that the crash injured 35 passengers, many of whom were sent to local hospitals where they were treated and released. Four passengers were in serious condition, authorities said Saturday night, one with life-threatening injuries.
Jackson was not injured in the crash and was interviewed at the scene Saturday night as passengers were shuttled to the hospital.
Mary Slayton, of Bristol, Pa., said Sunday in a phone interview that her nephew had taken the trip and her sister went along as a chaperone. Slayton’s nephew was not injured, but her sister suffered severe neck, spine, and head injuries and may have to stay at Brigham and Women’s Hospital for at least a week.
“She’s not doing well,” Slayton said. “. . . She’s a little out of it.”
Slayton declined to name her relatives.
Raymond Talmadge, owner of Philadelphia-based Calvary Coach, told a television station that Jackson may have been checking his GPS at the time of the crash.
“He said he looked at the GPS, looked down to make the turn, and when he looked back up, the bridge was a low bridge; he hit the low bridge,” Talmadge told ABC-6 TV in Philadelphia.
Procopio declined to comment on that report, saying in an e-mail that he does not “want to comment on specific alleged statements.”
Talmadge did not return messages seeking comment Sunday. He told the Globe on Saturday night that Jackson is a “very, very good driver.”
Procopio said on Saturday that State Police believe Jackson may have missed a sign that prohibits buses from traveling on the roadway due to the height of the bridge.
Signs warning off buses and trucks were visible Sunday morning at the entrance to Soldiers Field Road from the Western Avenue Bridge, and a yellow sign stating the 10-foot clearance height of the bridge could been seen on the underpass entrance traveling east on the road, the direction the bus was traveling.
The scene was clear late Sunday morning, with only a bit of shattered glass visible near the crash site. A new section of the center median guardrail heading under the bridge was in place.
State Police said that they had to remove part of the guardrail to get the bus off the road and that there was no structural damage to the bridge.
Massachusetts officials monitor thousands of close calls each year with large vehicles trying to access bridges on state roads, said Sara Lavoie, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.
She said in an e-mail that “within the Central Artery tunnel system we log [about] 10,000 overheight vehicle detections each year — that doesn’t mean there were 10,000 strikes, but these vehicles tripped our sensors that many times. The sensors trigger a message on our electronic signs and say either — take next exit, or stop [and] await police depending on the overheight’s location.”
The Western Avenue Bridge was deemed to be structurally sound on Saturday night, she said, and it is due for rehabilitation next year as part of the state’s Accelerated Bridge Program .
SJ Port, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, which maintains the roadway where the crash occurred, said officials are seeing an uptick in such incidents that could be tied to GPS devices, which typically do not alert drivers to approaching height restrictions.
She said the department usually sees accidents involving “box trucks or rental vehicles that the average driver is not used to driving — these bigger, 10-foot-and-plus trucks — whereas a bus driver is an unusual instance.”
Port said the agency is planning to launch an outreach campaign in March targeting colleges and neighborhoods of the city with high renter populations, to warn people to be alert while driving large moving trucks.
Curtis Hill, a member of Destined for a Dream Foundation, a Pennsylvania nonprofit that organized the trip, said Sunday in a phone interview that the organization is still trying to gather information about the injured passengers.
He said he did not know the status of the four passengers who were said on Saturday to have serious injuries.
In the chaos following the accident, the injured passengers were sent to several city hospitals, and authorities on Sunday could not provide a complete list of the passengers’ whereabouts, conditions, ages, and names.
State Police said that as of Sunday night, one person remained in critical condition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, two people were in stable condition at Massachusetts General Hospital, and one patient was in stable condition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, with another awaiting discharge.
One victim, Matt Cruz, identified by the Philadelphia Inquirer as a high school sophomore, was in critical condition Sunday at Boston Medical Center,
Kat Powers, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross of Eastern Massachusetts, said Sunday that the organization was housing family members of some of the injured passengers in area hotels, and also making mental health specialists available.
According to the Destined for a Dream Foundation’s website, the group provides educational programs for underprivileged students and uses sports as “a driving force to help develop leadership skills, direction, discipline, self-esteem, and teamwork.”
Jeff Neal, a Harvard spokesman, said in an e-mail that the students attended an information session and went on a tour on Saturday afternoon led by staff in the Harvard Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program at the admissions office.
Erica Waller-Hill, founder and chief executive of the foundation, posted photos on her personal Facebook page Saturday morning that showed students inside the bus and at a highway rest stop.
Waller-Hill could not be reached on Sunday, but she posted a Facebook message in the morning.
“We thank everyone for your prayers & words of encouragement,” she wrote.
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