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Overpass scrapes roof off bus; students injured

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Police in Long Island, New York say a charter bus driver may not have known about rules restricting commercial vehicles before hitting a bridge and cutting off the top of his bus. He was driving teens home from a trip. Six were seriously hurt. (April 9)
AP

New York State Police investigators on Monday were trying to determine why a bus driver slammed his charter, packed with students returning from spring break, into a bridge overpass on Long Island, injuring dozens of teens, chaperones and the driver.

The bus, operated by Journey Bus Line, was traveling from John F. Kennedy International Airport along the Southern State Parkway on Sunday night when the top of the bus apparently was ripped off by the overpass, photos from the scene indicated.

Maj. David Candelaria, spokesman for the State Police, said most commercial vehicles are banned from the parkway, adding that bridges are too low to accommodate buses.

“I don’t think he (the driver) had any awareness,” Candelaria said. “If you look at the damage, it was a high-impact strike.

“We are very lucky. This could have been tragic.”

Driver Troy Gaston, of Bethlehem, Pa., and the 43 passengers on board were taken to several area hospitals, police said. Two people suffered serious injuries, five others suffered what were described as moderate and the rest were minor, police said.

The 38 students aboard, ranging in age from 16-18, and five adult chaperones were returning from an Eastern Europe trip that was booked through EF Educational Tours, police said.

Neither the bus company nor the tour company responded immediately to requests for information from USA TODAY.

The bus was headed to a mall where the students were to reunite with their parents.  

“Everybody was able to walk out except one, which we extricated,” Lakeview Fire Department Chief Patrick McNeill told Newsday. “There was glass everywhere. The roof of the bus is down to the top of the seat covers.”

Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen said she was praying for the victims and their families, adding that “a lot of questions need to be answered.”

Newsday reported that plans were in the works for an electronic system that would warn drivers when vehicles are too high for an overpass on the parkway. The system, already in place on the Northern State Parkway, triggers an alert on an overhead electronic road sign that warns the driver to pull over. It also alerts State Police of the vehicle, the paper said.

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A charter bus carrying teenagers returning from a spring break trip struck a bridge overpass on Long Island, New York, seriously injuring six passengers and mangling the entire length of the top of the bus. (April 9)
AP

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