Several people were injured early Thursday morning when a commercial bus and semi truck collided with another commercial truck that had overturned on Interstate 80 in Gibbon, Nebraska. Police investigating the crash say that Mohamed Arguini, 39, of Antioch, Tenn., was hauling a truckload of dry cereal when he veered onto the median and then overcorrected, causing his semi truck to flip and splay across both westbound lanes.
A second commercial truck clipped Mr. Arguini’s overturned vehicle and drove off the road into a ditch. Mr. Arguini was taken to a hospital in Kearney, Neb., where he was listed in fair condition. The driver of the other truck was not injured.
The other injuries occurred when a Burlington Trailways bus traveling from Omaha to Denver collided with the overturned truck. The driver of the bus, Michelle Anderson, 50, of Omaha, was listed in critical condition at a Kearny hospital. All but six of the 41 passengers from the Trailways bus received treatment at the hospital.
Although there were no human casualties, the 4-year-old service dog of passenger Anthony Pavarotti, 53, was killed in the crash. “I’m having a hard time dealing with it,” Mr. Pavarotti told Omaha World-Herald. “We’ve never been separated.”
Mr. Pavarotti told the Kearny Hub that the bus was traveling in the left lane and the second semi truck was passing on the right when the bus struck the overturned truck and tore through the trailer packed with dry cereal. Mr. Pavarotti was one of the passengers who told the Kearny Hub that the bus driver may have been distracted because she had been talking on her cell phone throughout the trip.
Heather Howell, another passenger on the bus, gave an account that supported Mr. Pavarotti’s version of events, saying that the bus had been swerving during the trip as if the driver were falling asleep. “She was on the phone the whole time from Omaha,” Ms. Howell said. “Another 18-wheeler missed the trailer laying in the middle of the road. She wasn’t paying attention.”
Police investigating the crash, however, said the initial investigation indicated Ms. Anderson had not been using her phone at the time of the crash. According to the Associated Press, a spokesman for the American Bus Association said that the bus company prohibits drivers from using cell phones for personal use while behind the wheel, but they do use them for professional purposes, such as to communicate with dispatchers and terminals.
Both Iowa-based Burlington Trailways and Ms. Anderson have clean safety records, the AP reported. Ms. Anderson had her commercial license for almost 10 years and had logged 824,000 miles without an accident or moving violation.
The bus itself was new and had been in service only a couple of weeks when the crash occurred. It was also equipped with seat belts, although the passengers were not required to use them.
So far there have been no reports on what caused Mr. Arguini to lose control of his truck and crash on the interstate. The crash occurred about 2 a.m., a time when drivers are especially prone to the hypnotic effects of nighttime driving and fatigue – major causes of lowered alertness, slower responses, and nodding off behind the wheel.