February 27, 2013

UMaine women's basketball bus crash leaves team feeling 'blessed'

Players, coaches treated for minor injuries; driver in a Boston hospital after losing consciousness

By Gillian Graham ggraham@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Massachusetts State Police examine the front of a bus that crashed in Georgetown, Mass., on Tuesday while carrying University of Maine women's basketball players to a game.

The Associated Press

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Police work at the scene in Georgetown, Mass., on Tuesday where a bus carrying University of Maine women's basketball players crashed on Interstate 95 north of Boston.

The Associated Press

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Location map: Georgetown, MA

"I tried to get (to the driver) but was unsuccessful," he said. "We hit the median and I fell down into the space between the front seat and the stairwell, which probably saved me because I probably would have gone through the windshield."

Barron said Hamlin also ended up in the stairwell. The bus went airborne after it hit the highway median. Snowbanks helped lessen the impact and slowed down the bus, he said.

Assistant coach Todd Steelman said once the bus hit the rumble strip and median, "it was just a matter of time to ride it out and let everyone know to hold on." He said there was some yelling for people to "get down" before the bus hit a snowbank and came to rest in the woods.

"It's funny how many things go through your mind at a time like that: Please don't let anyone hit us. Please let the bus keep upright," Steelman said in a phone interview from Massachusetts. "Mostly, it was, 'Let's get it over with and get everybody out safe.' After we came to rest, there was some yelling out, 'Is everyone OK?' because we had some (previously) injured players with us. Then it was a matter of trying to get everybody off the bus as safely and quickly as possible."

Players and coaches were able to get out of the bus by squeezing through a window and slithering down the tree that had been bent over, Barron said.

The players and coaches were taken to three hospitals north of Boston, team officials said. As a precaution, all were put on backboards and taken by ambulance.

Crash investigation

Rick Soules, Cyr's general manager, spoke with Hamlin's family Wednesday morning and learned that Hamlin is conscious and speaking with them. Family members told Soules that Hamlin, 55, of Charleston, was burned in the accident and would be transferred for specialized treatment for those injuries, but they were uncertain about the time frame.

Fair condition means Hamlin's vital signs are stable and within normal limits. He is conscious and may be uncomfortable, but indicators are favorable, according to the hospital's definition on its website. Fair is one grade below good, and better than serious.

The company celebrated its 100th anniversary last year and Soules said he is unaware of any crash of this magnitude, though he has been with the company for only a few years. According to a database of the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration, Cyr had a satisfactory rating. The only other rating options are conditional or unsatisfactory.

"The company is really concerned now about our driver, and we are waiting to make sure he is OK," Soules said.

The database said the bus line had 52 buses inspected in the last two years, with 10 taken out of service, a rate slightly lower than the national average. Eighteen drivers also were inspected, with none barred from driving during the same period, the database showed, and the company reported no accidents in the last two years.

According to the company's website, Cyr Bus Lines has 280 drivers and operates 22 motorcoaches and 225 school buses. The website said the line's buses traveled 3.5 million miles in 2012.

"We've gone several million miles safely, but whenever something like this happens the company takes it seriously, and our concern goes out for the people involved," Soules said. "We were very happy to see the University of Maine students are healthy."

Hamlin and his family declined an interview request, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

The crash is being investigated by Troop A of the Massachusetts State Police with help from the State Police Collision Reconstruction and Analysis Section, the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Section, and the Crime Scene Services Section.

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Additional Photos

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Police work at the scene of the bus crash in Georgetown, Mass., on Tuesday that injured the bus driver and seven players and two coaches from the University of Maine women's basketball team.

The Associated Press

  


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