A bus driver was killed and several other people were seriously injured Tuesday when a charter bus filled with high school students plunged into a 50-foot ravine in Alabama — trapping dozens inside the mangled vehicle until rescuers could rappel down to free them.
The bus was returning to Houston, Texas, after a school trip around 5:30 a.m. when it crashed into a highway median on Interstate 10 and plunged into Cowpen Creek in Baldwin County, Sheriff Huey Hoss Mack said in a news conference.
The bus driver was pronounced dead at the scene. The bus was carrying 48 people at the time, with about five of those being adults.
“We have multiple injuries; the bus went down into a ravine,” said Chris Elliott, a Baldwin County commissioner who helped out at the county’s emergency management center following the crash. “The fire department and officers are having to rappel down into the area to get into it.”
More than a dozen fire departments from Alabama and Florida responded to the scene and worked to remove the trapped passengers — Channelview High School band students who were at Disney World in Florida — in the ravine. Several officers entered the ravine to pull students out of the wreckage, according to Mack. At least six helicopters were also used in the rescue efforts. Several people also had to be “cut out” of the wreckage.
The passengers were taken to 10 different local hospitals. One person was in critical condition and five others were seriously injured. Others suffered minor injuries, though the exact number of injured wasn’t immediately clear.
The high school band posted a photo on its Facebook page with several members wearing Mickey Mouse ears outside of Disney World just hours before the crash.
It’s unclear what caused the bus to fall into the ravine. Another bus that was traveling with the vehicle was not involved in the crash and continued the drive to Texas.
Interstate 10 was shut down in both directions after the incident. Police said the interstate will be closed for at least another two hours to remove the bus and investigate the incident.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.