February 27, 2013

'Somebody was watching out for us'

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

and Glenn Jordan gjordan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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UMaine assistant coach Jhasmin Player, right, receives a hug from former director of basketball operations Tracey Guerette, as the women's basketball team returned to Orono on Wednesday evening, Feb. 27, 2013, after being involved in a harrowing crash on I-95 in Massachusetts on Tuesday night.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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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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Location map: Georgetown, MA

The players heard a commotion, she said, and braced themselves as their coaches yelled "Get down! Hold on!"

Players said only a few seconds passed from the time they realized something was wrong to when the bus slammed into the trees, with glass flying.

Liz Wood, a freshman forward from Catlett, Va., said that from her seat on the right side of the bus, she saw headlights from oncoming traffic as the bus crossed the median and the northbound lanes.

"That was kind of freaky," she said. "We were lucky nothing hit us."

Assistant coach Todd Steelman said that when the bus hit the rumble strip and the median, "it was just a matter of time to ride it out and let everyone know to hold on."

He said there was yelling for people to "get down" before the bus hit a snowbank and crashed into 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," Steelman said.

Milica Mitrovic, a freshman guard from Serbia, was treated at a nearby hospital for a broken hand.

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

UMaine chartered another bus Wednesday to bring the team back to the campus in Orono.

Hamlin was flown by helicopter to Boston Medical Center.

Rick Soules, Cyr Bus Lines' general manager, spoke with Hamlin's family Wednesday and learned that he was conscious and speaking with them.

Family members told Soules that Hamlin, 55, was burned in the accident and would be transferred for specialized treatment, but they were uncertain about the time frame.

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

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

The company celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, and Soules said he is unaware of any crash of such 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 has a satisfactory rating. The other possible ratings are conditional and unsatisfactory.

The database shows that 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 of Cyr's drivers were inspected during the two years, with none barred from driving, the database shows, 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 motor coaches and 225 school buses. The website says 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."

(Continued on page 3)

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Additional Photos

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Assistant coach Amy Vachon receives a hug from former director of basketball operations Tracey Guerrette as the University of Maine women's basketball team returned to Orono on Wednesday evening, Feb. 27, 2013, after being involved in a harrowing crash on I-95 in Massachusetts on Tuesday night.

Gabe Souza

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This photo of the bus crash scene Tuesday night in Georgetown, Mass., was taken from a Massachusetts State Police helicopter.

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Members of the University of Maine women's basketball team stop at the Kennebunk rest area on the Maine Turnpike on their return to Orono following a bus accident in Massachusetts Tuesday evening. Brittany Wells, a freshman guard from Fishers, Ind., gives the thumbs up sign as she left the bus. At left is Yankee Lines bus driver Jason Stirk.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

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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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The University of Maine women's basketball team returned to Orono on Wednesday evening, Feb. 27, 2013, after being involved in a harrowing crash on I-95 in Massachusetts on Tuesday night.

Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer

 


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