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Maine women’s team bus crashes on I-95

Driver seriously hurt; many minor injuries

The Maine team bus was pulled from woods off Interstate 95.

WINSLOW TOWNSON FOR THE GLOBE

The Maine team bus was pulled from woods off Interstate 95.

This article was reported by Travis Andersen, Kathy McCabe, and Eric Moskowitz of the Globe staff and correspondent Haven Orecchio-Egresitz. It was written by Moskowitz.

GEORGETOWN — A bus carrying the University of Maine women’s basketball team to Boston veered off Interstate 95 south Tuesday night, crossed the median, and careened across all four northbound lanes before crashing into the woods, seriously injuring the driver and leaving many passengers with minor injuries, officials said.

The driver, identified by officials as 55-year-old Maine resident Jeffrey Hamlin, was freed from the bus by emergency workers and transported by MedFlight to Boston Medical Center. The team’s coach sustained facial lacerations.

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But the players — some of whom jumped out side windows onto the snow — and other passengers ­appeared to be less severely injured and were taken to nearby hospitals for examination and treatment, officials said.

Around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Hamlin was behind the wheel when he suddenly slumped forward, officials said. Despite an effort by coaches to regain control, the bus veered across the median strip and then crashed into trees on the side of the road.

Hamlin remains hospitalized this morning at Boston Medical Center with serious injuries. He was transported by medical helicopter from the scene.

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State Police spokesman ­David Procopio said a preliminary investigation indi­cated that the driver suffered a medical incident.

Officials called it a stroke of luck that more people were not severely injured and that traffic was light enough that the bus did not strike other vehicles.

“I think we’ve got some very, very fortunate people,” Fire Chief Albert Beardsley of Georgetown said, speaking at the crash site at about 10:30 p.m. Nearby, the bus jutted out from trees off the side of the inter­state on a section that lacks guardrails.

Georgetown police Sergeant Mike Goddu, one of the first on scene, arrived to find some of the Maine players “jumping out the side windows of the bus.” Goddu said the bus driver ­appeared to be badly hurt, but most passengers were conscious and alert.

“We’re just fortunate that no other vehicle was in the [highway] when it came across,” he said.

State Police Major Arthur Sugrue said there was no indication that the driver was ­under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash.

Parents of the Black Bears women’s basketball team anxiously awaited updates from their children Tuesday night, even as they were relieved to learn that they were not badly hurt. The team was on its way to Boston to play Boston University Wednesday.

In Worcester, Leo Nalivaika — whose daughter, Ali, is a ­junior forward — said she called briefly to say that her bus had swerved suddenly and veered off the road. Ali said she was physically unhurt, but rattled and was being taken to a hospital for evaluation.

“She’s shaken up and nerved up, and of course being parents — of course we’re also shaken up,” said Nalivaika, waiting for his daughter to call with an update late Tuesday night. “This could have been worse. We’re just hoping for the best for the bus driver and the rest of the squad.”

Beardsley, the fire chief, said 12 passengers were taken to Beverly Hospital, seven to Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport, and three to Merrimack Valley Hospital in Haverhill.

The University of Maine said that the team’s coach, Richard Barron, was being treated for minor facial lacerations.

“We’re very thankful that this accident was not any worse than it was,” said Robert Dana, vice president for student ­affairs and dean of students. “The thoughts of the entire University of Maine community are with the bus driver and the team as they contend with this very frightening event.”

In Louisville, Lesa Bodine was waiting for a second call from her daughter, Lauren, a freshman guard. She, too, had received a brief call from her daughter, whose cellphone was losing its charge as she was headed to the hospital.

Bodine said her daughter told her the passengers did not seem to be badly hurt but that some players recuperating from basketball-related surgeries struggled to get out of the bus and climb a snowbank on crutches. She was relieved that the incident was not even more severe, but the call was unsettling.

“So far away, it’s hard,” she said. “You hear of nightmares like that when teams travel so much, and you always get nervous.”

As the bus was being slowly pulled out of the woods at about 11:40 p.m., heavy front end damage was visible.

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.
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