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Three passengers from deadly Arizona bus crash remain hospitalized

Three passengers with nonlife-threatening injuries remained hospitalized at University Medical Center on Saturday after a charter bus carrying tourists back to Las Vegas from a sightseeing tour of the Grand Canyon careened off U.S. Highway 93 in northern Arizona late Friday night and crashed.

The 52-year-old driver, Ron Sparks of Las Vegas, died, authorities said.

The 2011 Silver State Trailways bus, chartered by Grand Canyon Tours, was traveling north and nearing the Nevada state line when the driver suffered an apparent medical episode and lost control shortly before 8 p.m., the Arizona Highway Patrol said.

Silver State Trailways is based in Placentia, Calif., and has a branch office in North Las Vegas.

The bus hit a ravine, tore up a small hill, and then bounced and lurched over rough terrain for more than 700 feet before stopping, damaging the front end but remaining upright, patrol spokesman Carrick R. Cook said.

“We believe the driver experienced some sort of medical condition and he just went off the road,” the patrol said in a statement. No other vehicles were involved.

All 48 passengers were injured, but 25 of them suffered only minor bumps and bruises, Cook said.

“The passengers were pretty much bouncing around,” he said.

The eight most seriously hurt were flown by helicopter to UMC, while 15 others with less severe injuries were rushed to area hospitals by road.

UMC duty administrator Kara Mc­Daniel said Saturday that five of the eight passengers were released overnight.

Three remained hospitalized, with one in serious condition and two others listed in fair condition, she said.

The patients admitted were mostly over 50 years old, hospital spokeswoman Danita Cohen said late Friday night. Their injuries consisted of broken bones and lacerations, she said.

The Highway Patrol’s Cook said most of the passengers appeared to be from Asia or Europe, but he didn’t have details.

Tony Fiorini, president of Silver State Trailways, did not identify the driver as Sparks, but he said that “he’s been with us for several years and he’s been (driving tour buses) for a lot more years than that.”

Fiorini speculated that his driver had suffered a heart attack: “To be perfectly honest, I’m not real sure.

“My main concern is for his family right now,” he said. He said it was fortunate “no one else was seriously injured.”

The bus was towed to Kingman, Ariz., where it will be inspected as part of the accident investigation.

It was the third time in recent years that a tour bus crash in the area claimed lives.

Two years ago, two people were killed and several others injured in a crash on an area highway.

In January 2009, seven people died and 10 were injured when a charter bus carrying a group of Chinese tourists on a return trip from the Grand Canyon crashed on U.S. 93, the main highway leading to Hoover Dam.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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