The driver of a charter bus that crashed on a Virginia highway ramp Sunday night, injuring dozens of college students, has been charged with reckless driving, investigators said Monday.
Virginia State authorities and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators found that driver Thomas Chidester, 58, was driving excessively fast when he lost control of the bus in a turn on the ramp. The bus flipped onto its side, injuring Mr. Chidester and 34 of the 50 passengers, including one who remains in serious condition.
The bus crash occurred on the Powhite Parkway just outside of Richmond around 7:15 p.m. The bus, operated by Abbott Bus Lines of Roanoke, Va., was headed to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville after leaving Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
Thirty-four of the 50 students aboard the bus were taken to hospitals in the Richmond area for treatment. The students are enrolled in Virginia Tech and Radford University in addition to the University of Virginia.
“It seemed like we were going way too fast” entering the turn, Emily Beneke, a Virginia Tech freshman, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. She told the Times-Dispatch that she was thrown between two seats and on top of another passenger, but made it out of the bus without injury.
“The charter bus was traveling south on the Powhite Parkway when it took the ramp to Chippenham Parkway south,” police said. “As the bus came through the curve of the ramp, the driver lost control and the bus overturned onto its side.”
According to ABC News, parents had just dropped their children off at the VCU bus pickup spot minutes before the crash occurred.
Virginia officials classified the crash as a mass casualty situation so it could mobilize all resources from the surrounding jurisdictions.
“When you have a bus of this size, with that many students on it and it overturns like this in a crash, absolutely we are very fortunate that there weren’t more injured seriously than they were,” said Lt. Jason Elmore of the Chesterfield County Fire and EMS told ABC News.
The crash remains under investigation as authorities work to determine whether other factors may have contributed to it.