Bus and semi collision could have been worse
Busload of students mostly okay after accident on the Richardson Highway
Valdez Star photo
Emergency responders unloaded ski gear and relayed it to Valdez after helping rescue the driver of this chartered bus that hit the back of a DOT semi-truck Friday near Milepost 55 on the Richardson Highway.
A large-scale tragedy was narrowly avoided Friday after a charter bus carrying cross-country skiers to Valdez from Kenai and Skyview High Schools rear-ended an empty low board trailer behind a DOT-owned semi-truck near mile 55 of the Richardson Highway.
The driver of the bus, identified by Alaska State Troopers as 72 year-old Vernon Brown of Kenai, was trapped in the cab of the bus for over an hour after the accident and was later transported on a medical flight to Anchorage after arriving in Valdez by ambulance. A passenger on the bus was also sent to Anchorage by medical flight after complaining of abdominal pain according to Sheri Pierce, public information officer for the City of Valdez.
"Some students on the bus sustained injuries and all were transported to Valdez by a First Student bus," Troopers said in the Jan. 10 dispatch.
The driver of the semi, identified by Troopers as by James Woodhouse, age 60 of Valdez, was also transported by ambulance to Providence Valdez Medical Center. Four students were transported to Providence Valdez Medical Center for observation and treatment of minor injuries according to Pierce.
Valdez jumped into action quickly Pierce said, readying a medical triage at the Hermon Hutchens elementary school gym. The students not transported by ambulance were shuttled to Valdez on a First Student bus chartered by Valdez City Schools. Gear and other luggage was later unloaded by volunteers on the scene and brought to Valdez in rescue trucks and vehicles of other responders.
Valdez police officers Jamie Major and Andrew Pritchett were first on the scene of the accident, having been traveling in the area on other police business out of town.
The accident, which troopers say occurred around 11:45 a.m. Friday, saw a massive response from emergency personnel and other concerned parties in both Valdez and the Copper Basin.
Valdez Star photo
The front bumper of the bus was still stuck to the empty lowboy trailer of the truck after Friday's accident.
Unfortunately, the student athletes aboard the bus were not allowed by their district to compete in the Valdez Invite.
George Keeney, Valdez fire chief, was grateful for the efforts.
"I want to thank all those who stopped by the scene and helped behind the scenes at the crash site and at the Triage center," he said in Monday's emergency report. "It was a great team effort."
Keeney said all these entities were involved in the incident: State Troopers, Matcom, ADOT, Alyeska, Glenrich Fire Rescue, CREMS, Valdez Schools and superintendent Lisa Stroh, Valdez Police Department, Safeway, City of Valdez, Valdez Medical Clinic, Providence Valdez Medical Center, Life Med, ADEC, First Student (School Bus Valdez), MatSu Ski Team parents, and the staff and volunteers for the Valdez Fire Department.