One dead, 30 hurt in Thruway crash near Waterloo

Shell of burned out tour bus on NYS Thruway / photo: WROC-TV

One person is dead and thirty people have been injured after a tractor-trailer loaded with auto parts rear-ended a bus on the New York State Thruway overnight.

State police report two of the injured are in critical condition, fifteen are hospitalized with injuries classified from minor to serious. Thirteen others were treated at the scene.

The accident happened around 1:30 Friday morning in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 90 near the Waterloo Premium Outlets in the Seneca County Town of Junius. Troopers say the bus and truck burst into flames after the collision and were both burned beyond recognition. Police say witnesses to the crash helped the passengers escape the burning bus. Among the rescuers was a soldier stationed at Fort Drum who was traveling on the Thruway. He is identified as Sgt. Jacob Perkins.

Upstate University Hospital says four of the injured from the accident were taken there. One person was admitted and the others are being treated and are expected to be released. State Police Sgt. Thomas Burroughs said getting an exact count of the injured in the fiery wreck was difficult because some were taken by helicopter to hospitals in the Rochester area while others went by ambulance and some by private vehicle. The latest figures provided by state police are that 46 passengers were taken to seven different hospitals. 30 were being treated for injuries.

The lone fatality was the truck driver, Timothy Hume, age 59, from Dryden, Michigan. He was employed by Matrix Expedited Services of Flint, Michigan. Police said he had a clean driving record.

State Police say the bus left Hamilton, Ontario around 8:30 Thursday night and was headed to New York City. There were 52 passengers and the driver on the bus. Eyewitnesses tell police the bus had been stopped on the shoulder and was attempting to re-enter the eastbound lanes when it was struck by the truck. The bus is owned by Farr Coach from Dunville, Ontario.

Police say the bus driver, 60-year-old Rene Bisson of Ontario, had his bus driver's license suspended in New York due to two speeding tickets, one in 2003 in Cattaragus County and the other in 2006 in Herkimer County. He will be charged with misdemeanor aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, and could face a $500 - $1,500 fine or 30 days in jail if convicted.

Anyone who witnessed the crash or can provide more information is asked to call police at (585) 398-4100.

Eastbound lanes on the Thruway are closed between Exits 41 (Waterloo) and 42 (Geneva). The State DOT says traffic is being detoured via Route 318 east and Route 414 north. Drivers should plan for extended delays, and those familiar with the area may wish to seek alternate routes. They are expected to be opened later this afternoon.

This crash follows one on Sunday that killed two people and injured 35 others about 45 miles west of Friday's crash scene. In that tour bus accident, police said it appears a tire blowout caused the bus to veer off the road and flip over. Then on Tuesday, a car sideswiped a van full of Amish farmers only about 30 miles away, pushing the van under a farm tractor and killing five of the farmers.

So far this year, 32 people have been killed and 323 injured in 17 tour bus accidents, according to Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety . That's more than in all of 2010, when there 30 killed and 272 injured in 28 crashes.

Tour bus industry safety has drawn heightened attention since the March 12 crash of a bus returning to New York City's Chinatown after an overnight excursion to a Connecticut casino. Fifteen people were killed when the bus flipped onto its side and struck a pole, peeling off its roof.

A passenger has said the driver fell asleep; the driver has said he was alert and well-rested. That crash is being investigated by state police and the National Transportation Safety Board.

State Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald said there have been about 3,000 surprise bus inspections throughout the state since the March crash. During that period, 304 drivers and 238 buses have been taken off the road. The state does 160,000 bus inspections every year.

In January 2005, a bus chartered by a Canadian women's youth hockey team rammed a parked tractor-trailer along I-390 near Geneseo, about 30 miles north of Sunday's crash, killing four people. Investigators determined the driver's lack of sleep and inexperience led to the crash.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.