One person has been killed and nine others injured in a bus accident on Tuesday after a pickup truck veered into the wrong lane on an interstate in rural Arkansas colliding head on with a bus, said authorities.
Following the collision, the pick up truck burst into flames. Emergency responders arrived shortly after the incident to put out the fire, and the driver of the pick up was declared dead on the scene. According to officials, it is not yet clear whether the driver died in the initial impact of the collision or during the fire that followed.
The accident occurred on Interstate 10 in Casa Grande, a rural area in Arizona about 50 miles south of Phoenix, at around 2.15pm. Authorities from the Arizona Department of Public Safety have officially identified the deceased as Francis Wilkens Gibson Jr., a 78 year old man from Casa Grande. According to the Casa Grande Dispatch, Gibson was a teacher at Evergreen Elementary School until he retired in 1993. The exact circumstances surrounding the accident remain unclear and authorities are investigating the cause of the crash.
According to Department of Public Safety Captain, Brian Preston, investigators will determine whether alcohol or drugs played a role in the incident.
There were 15 passengers on the bus at the time of the crash, nine of which were injured. None of the injuries sustained were life-threatening, however. Two passengers were air lifted to Casa Grande Regional Medical Hospital for treatment, while a further seven were transported to the hospital by road in ambulances. Four passengers, all Mexican residents, remain hospitalised.
The charter bus that was involved in the accident was owned by TBC Connexion and was en route from Mexico to Phoenix. The bus driver, identified as Leonardo Leyva, 46, from Ariz, was not injured in the accident, said Preston.
DPS authorities say that they received two 911 calls about the pick up truck travelling the wrong way on Interstate 10 a few minutes before the crash, and DPS officials were already responding to these calls when the collision occurred, said Bart Graves, a spokesperson for the DPS.
The westbound lanes of the Interstate were closed for hours following the incident while state employees worked to clear the road of the wreckage. Traffic was backed up for hours until the lane was re-opened on Tuesday evening. The wreckage of the bus has not yet been removed from the scene.