Driver Dies When Tour Bus Plunges Off I-270 Ramp

Thursday, Sep 30, 2010  |  Updated 8:57 PM EDT
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View raw video from the I-270 bus crash scene in <a title=Montgomery County." />

View raw video from the I-270 bus crash scene in Montgomery County.

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Bethesda Trauma Doc Speaks Out on Bus Crash

"I'm surprised there weren't more severe injuries." Doctors and family members of the 12 people hurt in Wednesday's deadly bus crash on I-270 say the accident could have been much worse.

Crash Witness: "They Were Trapped"

A witness to the I-270 bus crash shares what she saw.
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The driver of a charter bus that had taken a group of tourist to the National Mall and National Zoo was killed Wednesday afternoon when the bus crashed through a barrier on a flyover ramp and plunged off the highway during rush hour.

The preliminary investigation indicated the charter bus was returning to Pennsylvania at the time of the crash.  As the bus approached the sky ramp on the northbound I-270 HOV express lane from the Outer Loop of I-495 in Bethesda, Md., it left the roadway for unknown reasons.

The bus traveled off the left side of roadway, through a guardrail and down an approximately 45-foot embankment through small trees and brush. Investigators believe the bus rolled over once before coming to rest upright, partially on the jersey wall along the northbound spur of I-270. Investigators believe the bus did not lose contact with the ground as it traveled down the embankment.

The driver of the bus, Joseph Clabaugh, 66, of Hanover, Pa., died.

Three or four people were trapped inside the bus and were extricated. Twelve people were transported to area hospitals. Two passengers suffered life-threatening injuries, authorities said. Two others were in critical condition, and another eight were in stable condition and are expected to be fine, Melvin reported. Some of those in stable condition were transported as a precaution. Children reportedly were among those being treated and transported. Witnesses said that there were children on the bus, but authorities have not confirmed whether they were on the bus or in the other vehicles involved.

The injured passengers on the bus have been identified as: Sally Currie, 47, and Emma Currie, 7, of Carlisle, Pa.;
Trina Manetta, 38, Donte Manetta, 10, and Dominic Manetta, 11, of Carlisle; Vincent Oliverio, 12, Madison Oliverio, 9, and Riley Oliverio, 11, of Carlisle; Helen Rockefeller, 74, and Richard Lake 77, of Endicott, NY; and Ashok Sonalkar, 71, of Mechanicsburg, Pa.

Suburban Hospital received two trauma patients in fair condition, five walk-ins for bumps and bruises, and one child in good condition, according to a hospital spokesperson. Three more children with minor injuries are expected. A Shady Grove Hospital spokeswoman said they were receiving three patients with non-life-threatening injuries.

None of the patients at Suburban is in critical condition anymore.

Dr. Barton Leonard, an emergency physician at Suburban Hospital, said considering how far the bus fell, "I'm surprised there weren't more severe injuries."

Two other motorists driving on the northbound spur of I-270 from the inner loop of I-495 were struck by a falling light pole caused by the bus crash. June Odegard, 55, of Montgomery Village, Md., was driving a 2010 Honda CRV in the slow lane when a falling highway light pole struck the front of her car. She was transported to Germantown Emergency Medical Center. Another driver, Parag G. Ghodgaonkar, 37, of Germantown, Md, was driving a 1998 Acura in the middle lane when he ran over the same light pole after it struck Odegard’s car. He was not injured.

The 26-passenger bus was not full. It's unknown how many people were on board when it crashed.

Wolf's Bus Lines, of York Springs, Pa., confirmed one of their buses was involved in the accident. The company had no further comment.

Maryland State Police are investigating, which is a lengthy phase, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Assistant Chief Scott Graham said. Montgomery County Fire and Rescue is providing assistance. The National Transportation Safety Board also went to the scene.

A Maryland State Police mechanical inspection team did not find any mechanical violations or issues that would have caused the crash. Autopsy results for the driver are still pending, and the investigation continues.

Stay with NBC4 and NBCWashington.com for updates as they become available.


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