Yesterday, a Texas Department of Criminal Justice bus carrying a dozen prisoners and three corrections officers slid on some ice and plummeted from an overpass on Interstate 20 near mile marker 20 onto a set of railroad tracks below, where it was then hit by a Union Pacific train.
The accident happened near Penwell, which is just outside Odessa, Texas. It left ten people dead, eight of whom were prisoners, while two were corrections officers, including the driver of the bus. In addition to the dead, four other prisoners and the other corrections officer were injured and transported to Medical Center Hospital in Odessa with serious injuries. According to reports, four of the five who were injured were listed in critical condition, although it wasn’t clear which four they were.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), the bus, which was owned by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, was en route from Abilene’s Middleton Unit to the Sanchez Unit in El Paso when the accident occurred, at about 7:30 a.m. The bus was supposedly almost new, only put into service this past summer.
DPS Troopers who arrived at the scene noted that the scene was indeed grisly. The Interstate was covered in ice at the time, and police suggested that an earlier accident that morning on that same overpass may have contributed to the accident. Witnesses say the prisoners were not wearing seat belts, but they were handcuffed together in pairs. Some were ejected from the bus as it left the overpass.
The relatively new bus was lying on its side next to the railroad tracks, It had significant damage to its front end and its undercarriage and the top of the bus had caved in. The Union Pacific train that had hit the bus came to a stop right after the accident. No cars derailed, but two container cars near the back of the train were damaged. Those cars had been carrying packages marked for delivery, but instead many were strewn all around the tracks. Thankfully, no one on the train was injured.
Union Pacific sent a work crew to inspect the tracks at the accident scene and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is also investigating the scene to determine what happened.
A thorough investigation of this accident will have to be conducted and a lot of factors will have to be taken into account, including factors involving the qualifications of the driver and the condition of the bus, as well as factors regarding the roadway, such as why the ice was so bad at that spot, and whether or not it was possible to have reduced the ice.
While the first reaction may be to dismiss the victims of this crash as “just prisoners,” these were not death row inmates, and they have families in any case. Their families and other loved ones were expecting to see them when they were released, and now that won’t happen
If you or a loved one have been killed or injured in any sort of bus accident, please contact the Texas Bus Accident Lawyers at Ramsey Hill for a free consultation, so that we can conduct a thorough investigation and protect your rights under the law.