1 Killed, 1 Hurt on Open-Top Bus After Hitting Heads on SE Bridge

By Clarence Williams and Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, July 12, 2008

One man was killed and another was critically injured last night when their heads struck a freeway overpass while on the upper deck of a bus headed to the Washington Nationals baseball game, D.C. police said.

The incident occurred about 8:45 p.m., as the open-topped double-decker bus, which was westbound on the Southeast Freeway, passed beneath the 11th Street overpass.

"They were standing in the upper part of the bus, and their heads struck the under part of the overpass," said Cmdr. Andy Solberg, field supervisor for the police.

Rescue workers performed CPR on one of the men, who was taken to George Washington University Hospital. The other man was taken to Washington Hospital Center.

Police said last night that one of the men had died, but it was not immediately clear which. The men were described as in their 20s. Neither was identified, and it was not known where they were from. The upper level of the bus has seats, and it was not clear how long the men had been standing.

"At some point . . . some of the young men on the top deck stood up," Solberg said.

Shuttle buses are provided from the parking area at RFK Stadium to the Nationals' new ballpark near the Anacostia River and South Capitol Street. But it was not clear last night whether the double-decker bus was part of the "Nats Express" shuttle service promoted on the team's Web site.

According to the account given by police, the bus the two men were on left RFK well after the start of last night's game against the Houston Astros, which was scheduled for 7:35 p.m. It was not known whether all were members of a single group.

It appeared to witnesses at the scene late last night that other passengers on the open-topped bus were severely shaken.

"This was a traumatic event for anyone who was up there," said police Capt. Jeff Herold, head of the crash investigation unit.

After the men were injured, other passengers apparently alerted the driver of the bus, who stopped at Ninth and I streets SE, near the Marine Barracks. Gunnery Sgt. Will Price, a public affairs representative at the barracks, said witnesses described a horrific scene. He said one of the bus passengers had administered first aid before Marines and rescue workers arrived.

"It's the most serious thing I've seen in my three years here," Price said.

At least one of the passengers was counseled by a Marine Corps chaplain. A man who lives near where the bus stopped said he saw people moving toward the vehicle in the aftermath of the crash.

"Marines jumped in to help," Scott Kratz said. Some of them brought a wheelbarrow filled with ice, he said.

Police continued to investigate the incident late last night and appeared to be measuring the heights and clearances involved as part of the inquiry. Some nearby streets were shut down.

The red bus the men were riding on is typically used for sightseeing. Generally, buses used in the Nats Express service are standard models, with all passengers in a closed cabin on a single level.

Parking near the new ballpark is limited, and shuttles have been used so cars can be left at RFK.

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