Utah bus crash kills 9 skiers
Aspen, CO Colorado
MEXICAN HAT, Utah ” A ninth person died Monday after a new bus carrying skiers home from a Colorado resort plunged off a damp, twisting highway in southeastern Utah and landed 41 feet below with its tires ripped away and the roof destroyed.
“The bus looked like a convertible,” said Jim Hook, the fire chief in Bluff.
Those killed included two high school students from Glendale, Ariz. About 20 other people from the Phoenix area were injured Sunday night, some seriously, authorities and hospital officials said.
“There were lots of head injuries, glass, broken limbs. … Everybody was just looking for help. We had to sort through it,” Hook said.
The ninth victim, a woman, died at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo., said Trooper Cameron Roden of the Utah Highway Patrol.
The Arrow Stage Lines bus was southbound on State Route 163 when it veered off the two-lane road and dropped off an embankment. Weather was not considered the main factor, although it played a role in the subsequent rescue.
“The main thing we’re looking at is the driver failed to negotiate the turn,” Roden said.
Loose tires and parts mixed with barbed wire, steel posts, luggage and ski equipment strewn across sagebrush. Some people were pinned under the wreck, and others were scattered 100 yards from where the bus went off the road, Hook said.
“It’s just a narrow road. No shoulders, sharp curves,” he said. “Truckers and buses know that. You don’t go in there at night.”
A manifest showed 51 passengers were aboard when the bus crashed about 10 miles north of Mexican Hat, in the Four Corners region where Utah meets Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico.
Hook said passengers were a mix of families, people in their 20s and children as young as 5. Two students at Glendale’s Deer Valley High School were killed: Marc Rasmussen, a senior, and Erica Sheffey, a junior, district spokeswoman Sandi Hicks said.
Rasmussen, who was on the wrestling team, was on the trip with his parents, teenage sister and younger brother, she said. The four family members were taken to hospitals, she said.
It wasn’t clear whether Sheffey, a cheerleader, was traveling with relatives, Hicks said.
“She got straight As,” said Jessika Owen, a classmate of Sheffey’s. “She succeeded in anything she did.”
Rose June, a clerk at the San Juan Inn, said she rushed to the scene to distribute blankets and towels to people on stretchers.
“They were saying, ‘Where’s my friend? Where’s the ambulance?'” June said. “I tried to keep the rain off their face.”
Arrow Stage refused to identify the organizers who leased the bus for the trip. Roden said it was among as many as 17 chartered for a long weekend in Telluride, Colo.
An Arrow Stage executive, Bruce Neuharth, said the company and its Phoenix subsidiary, Corporate Transportation ‘N Tours, were cooperating with authorities.
The bus was a “new motorcoach that was in perfect working order,” Neuharth said in a statement.
The National Transportation Safety Board was dispatching investigators.
Arrow Stage has had seven bus crashes in the past two years, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Four of those accidents involved injuries.
Mexican Hat, named for a rock formation that resembles a hat, is 360 miles southeast of Salt Lake City and has fewer than 100 residents.
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