Bus driver's autopsy report could help explain deadly crash
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Autopsy results on a bus driver who died while taking a high school band from Florida to Texas may help show why the vehicle careened wildly across a highway before plunging down a steep embankment, police said Wednesday.
The driver, 65-year-old Harry Caligone, was the only person killed in the crash, and a medical examiner's report could reveal whether he had a health problem that could be a factor in the crash, said Capt. John Malone of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.
About three dozen people went to hospitals after the accident, and nine remained hospitalized Wednesday.
The bus, carrying 46 students and adults from Disney World to Channelview High School in suburban Houston, unexpectedly left the westbound lane of Interstate 10 before dawn Tuesday.
Malone said the bus veered across the median into the eastbound lane before shooting back into the grass median and driving off the ravine.
"It actually hit the guard rail on the eastbound side and was directed back into the median," he said.
There were no signs of skid marks, Malone said, indicating the driver didn't apply the brakes in a hurry.
"It just rolled," Malone said.
The National Transportation Safety Board said the bus was new and making only its second trip.
Pete Kotowski, an investigator with the agency, told a news conference that Caligone was on his way to meet a relief driver less than an hour away in Mobile, Alabama, at the time of the crash. Switching drivers is a normal procedure, he said, and the driver had not exceeded the total number of hours he was allowed to drive.
The crash occurred on a rural stretch between Pensacola, Florida, and Mobile, Alabama.
A student told the media that the band director called the driver called out "Harry" several times before the crash, but Malone said investigators haven't determined what happened aboard the bus.
Caligone's sister-in-law, Angela Caligone, 58, of Houston, said Caligone had been a bus driver for more than 20 years, the last 15 years with First Class Tours Inc. of Houston.
Caligone said her brother-in-law had just passed a physical with "flying colors." A company spokesman said Caligone had a checkup earlier this month but didn't provide details of the results.
Channelview Independent School District released the following statement Wednesday:
"First and foremost, we continue to pray for our students, employees and families affected by the bus accident yesterday. We welcomed home one busload of our High School band students yesterday afternoon. District counselors and employees, as well as local ministers, met our students to provide comfort and encouragement. We remain focused on assisting all of our students in reuniting with their families at home. We are working with United Airlines to coordinate travel home for our students and parents at no cost to them. Many parents drove to their children and are making their way home as we speak. We know that the healing process now begins for our students and staff. As people receive treatment for their physical injuries, we also have counselors and ministers available to assist in emotional healing as Spring Break draws to a close and students return to school. Again, we extend a heartfelt thank you to local authorities and the many wonderful people in the communities surrounding Mobile and Pensacola. Our children have been taken care of, loved and provided for. We look forward to having all of our students home and well."
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