Sixteen passengers injured in tour bus wreck
Twenty-seven charter bus passengers walked away with only minor injuries after the bus they were traveling in overturned on Interstate 80, just west of the Donner Lake Interchange Sunday.
Shortly before 9 a.m., Michael Collins, 52, the driver who was navigating the Mike Lee Tour bus from Reno to Sacramento, apparently decided to not avoid one of two large snow-covered rocks in the roadway, according to California Highway Patrol reports.
“Apparently the driver thought the rock was a huge ball of snow,” said Ron Wulff, CHP public affairs officer.
When the bus ran over the rock, the rock became wedged under the bus. The bus then veered right onto a rock embankment and rolled onto its side.
Caltrans was in the process of responding to reports of two rocks that had rolled off the hillside onto the highway. Reports stated that within 15 minutes of the first report to remove the rocks from the interstate, the bus hit the one that was located in the middle of his lane.
Wulff said all of the passengers escaped through emergency exits and front window that had blown out when the bus impacted with the rock embankment. They were all evaluated, but only 15 passengers and the driver were transported to Tahoe Forest Hospital, where it was reported they were treated and released the same day.
Truckee Fire Protection District ambulances responded and requested additional ambulances from the Donner Summit Fire Department and North Tahoe Fire. Four ambulances transported the 16, while the 12 uninjured passengers waited on scene for another bus to arrive to complete the return trip. The bus arrived within two hours and picked up the driver and passengers, some from Tahoe Forest Hospital and others roadside.
Wulff said some passengers opted for an alternative way home after their bad experiences.
“On the way to Reno, the bus slid into a snowbank and the passengers had to wait for hours for the bus to be pulled out by a big rig,” he said. “Another driver and bus showed up for the ride home, and when some of the passengers boarded the bus they told the driver not to drive like the other driver. The driver ended up hitting the rock. That wasn’t very good luck.”
While the accident is still under investigation, drugs, alcohol and excessive speed have been ruled out, according to CHP reports.
The bus was leased to Mike Lee Tours, the same bus company that was involved in a bus rollover in September, where two passengers were killed and 34 injured on eastbound Interstate 80 at Farad. The bus owner is Moon Glow Quovadis Tour Line in San Francisco.
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