NEW CASTLE, Del. — A bus carrying dozens of passengers finishing up a sightseeing tour crashed and overturned in Delaware, leaving two women dead and several other passengers injured, authorities said.
The wreck did not involve other vehicles and happened around 4:20 p.m. Sunday in New Castle in the northern part of the state, south of Wilmington, officials said. State police said Monday that drugs and alcohol did not play a role.
Forty-nine passengers were on the bus as it drove on an exit ramp, and it was going through a curve when it left the road and overturned, according to a Delaware State Police news release. The bus slid on its roof down a grass embankment and came to rest on its left side, spokesman Sgt. Paul Shavack said in the release.
Hua’y Chen, a 54-year-old woman from New York City, was found under the bus and was pronounced dead at the scene, Shavack said. Idil Bahsi, a 30-year-old woman from Istanbul, Turkey, was taken to a hospital and died Sunday night.
Other passengers were taken to hospitals for injuries varying in severity.
As of 11 a.m. Monday, a spokesman for Delaware’s top trauma center Christiana Hospital said 23 patients were admitted, one in critical condition. Ten patients were in serious condition, said the spokesman, Hiran Ratnayake.
National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Peter Knudson said Monday that that the agency has opened an investigation into the wreck. The first phase will likely take three or four days, and a preliminary report should be ready by next week, Knudson said.
“We think we might be able to learn some lessons to improve transportation safety,” he said.
Investigators were interviewing the bus driver, 56-year-old Jinli Zhao, who was not critically injured, authorities said.
The passengers were taking a three-day sightseeing tour to Washington that began Friday in New York, authorities said. The crash happened as the bus was heading back to New York.
State police told The News Journal newspaper of Wilmington there were no apparent witnesses outside the bus to the crash.
But Elvis D’cruz, 19, told The Associated Press he was driving in the area with a friend when he came upon the overturned bus.
“Everyone was in pain and crying out for help,” said D’cruz, a student at Penn State Brandywine in Pennsylvania. “There was not one person without blood on them.”
D’cruz said the bus had overturned on an off-ramp from Delaware’s Route 1 that is known for being steep.
Shavack said the bus belonged to Am USA Express Inc., a bus company based in New York.
The company was involved in one other crash over the past two years, with no one was hurt, according to online records with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Seventeen bus inspections and 31 inspections of drivers in the past two years resulted in one driver and one bus being taken out of service.
Photographs from the scene showed the bus lying on the driver’s side on a grassy shoulder. The photos showed at least two people with neck braces lying in the grass while a group of others were sitting nearby.
Video footage taken at the site showed emergency officials leaning over to attend the injured and placing victims on stretchers as ambulances and other emergency vehicles stood by.
Associated Press writers Juliet Linderman in Baltimore and Jessica Gresko and Amanda Myers in Washington contributed to this story.