Camillus woman among dead in Parkway bus crash

BREAKING NEWS: Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh tells CNY Central 18-year-old Deanna Armstrong, who grew up in Camillus, was killed in the Megabus accident yesterday on Onondaga Lake Parkway. Armstrong had since moved to Vorhees, NJ and was on her way up to visit friends.

Walsh also shed some light on what may have led up to yesterday's accident. He says the driver, 59-year-old John Tomaszewski of New Jersey, was lost, most likely taking the wrong exit toward the Parkway, instead of the Park Street exit coming from 81-N. The Sheriff says Tomazewski gave no inidcation he saw the signs or even saw the bridge before he crashed into it. Walsh adds there is not even an idication that Tomaszewski hit the breaks before the crash.

Walsh says a traffic ticket for not obeying road signs will be issued at some point, but further charges are unknown, pending a toxicology report and accident reconstruction. Walsh says there was no indication Tomaszewski was on any substance that would have caused the accident. Tomaszewski volunteered a blood sample at the hospital.

Walsh says deputies will speak with the driver in the coming days, but added it's been difficult because of Tomaszewski's head injury.

Update 11:00 pm: Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh has released the names of several of the victims of the crash. Kevin Coffey, 19, of Kansas, Ashwani Mehta, 34, of India, and Benjamin Okorie, 35, of Malaysia, were all killed. The name of the fourth victim is being withheld. One other person is in critical condition at University Hospital. The driver, John Tomaszewski, 59, of New Jersey, is in serious condition at University Hospital.

Update 9:30 pm: Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh tells CNY Central 29 people, including the driver, were on the double decker bus this morning when it crashed into the CSX Railway bridge that crosses Onondaga Lake Parkway. Four people were killed, 25 were sent to the hospital he says. Of those 25, 20 people have been treated and released from local hospitals. Two patients remain at Crouse Hospital, while three patients, including the bus driver, remain at University Hospital. Walsh says one of those patients at University Hopsital is in critical condition. The driver of the bus, Walsh says, was originally admitted to Crouse, but has since been moved to University Hospital with a serious head injury. No names have been released at this time.

Updated at 2:00 pm: A double decker bus driving from Pennsylvania to Canada hit the railway bridge over the Onondaga Lake Parkway early Saturday morning, killing four people and sending more than twenty others to area hospitals. The coach struck the CSX Railway bridge that crosses just ten feet and nine inches above the parkway surface. It has been the scene of numerous collisions involving tractor trailer trucks that are too high for the bridge.

Megabus says the bus was traveling from Philadelphia to Toronto. It left Philadelphia at 10pm. Its manifest says there were 37 people who had reserved seats, but the bus driver told authorities at the scene there were only 25 on board when the bus struck the bridge at 2:27am.

"Everyone was yelling. I felt something hit and then I flew like a pendulum from here to here - then I got stuck between the two seats and then I was unconscious," said Vaibhar Kothari who was sitting on the upper level of the double decker bus.

Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh tells CNY Central the bus hit the bridge, turned sideways, and rolled onto its side.

The bus was scheduled to make a stop at the Regional Transportation Center in Syracuse before then stopping in Buffalo and then onto its final destination in Toronto. But the bus never made its stop in Syracuse. The mystery today is what was the bus doing on the Parkway. In order to reach the transportation center, it should have exited Interstate 81 at the Park Street exit But for reasons investigators do not know yet, the driver got off the the interstate one exit later and entered Onondaga Lake Parkway

Don Carmichael, the company's senior vice president for a safety says "Our immediate thoughts and concern are with those who have lost their lives or been injured, as well as their families and loved ones," Carmichael said. "Safety is our absolute priority and we will be carrying out a full investigation into the accident as well as assisting the police and other authorities in any way that we can."

Carmichael says the company cannot speculate what the bus was doing on Onondaga Lake Parkway with its low clearance. The road is not on its regularly designated route. Carmichael says the drive has driven this route at least nine times since the company started service in July.

At this point authorities are still trying to identify the victims. We know that three of the dead are male, and one is female. One of the males is described as being 19 years old and from Kansas.

The driver of the bus survived and is being treated for head injuries. The victims were taken to all four Syracuse area hospitals, where the Red Cross has set up mental health counseling for those who are injured and their families. University Hospital spokesman Darryl Geddes says 15 people were taken there, and the hospital went into its internal disaster plan, where extra staff was brought in and a triage area set up. All but two of the victims taken there were treated and released. One of the passengers that remain at the hospital is in serious condition. Onondaga Lake Parkway was shut for most of the morning. I has since reopened.

Passengers who were treated and released from area hospitals were taken to a local hotel where the Red Cross provided counselors and assistance. Carmichael says the company is working with the victims to get them home or to their desitnations.

CNYcentral's Laura Hand, Lou Gulino, Andy Perdue, Alex Dunbar, Chris McGrath, Jessica Cain and Caitlin Nuclo contributed to this report.