Tour bus carrying children crashes through guardrail in Bethesda; driver killed

Police say a commuter bus plunged off a highway outside the nation's capital, killing one person and injuring several others. Parents and children were aboard the bus that fell 45 feet off a skyramp of the Washington beltway. (Sept. 29)
Map of bus crash site
Gene Thorp/The Washington Post
By Dan Morse and Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, September 29, 2010; 11:11 PM

A tour bus carrying children and adults from a trip to Washington crashed through a metal guardrail and tumbled down the embankment of an Interstate 270 spur Wednesday afternoon, killing the driver, injuring about a dozen others and bringing rush-hour traffic to a standstill.

The bus, which carried 11 passengers, was heading north on an HOV flyover about 4 p.m. when it smashed through the guardrail and rolled about 45 feet down the hill, landing atop a Jersey wall along the shoulder of the highway below, officials said. The bus rolled once and landed upright but was never airborne, they said.

The driver of the bus was killed and the others onboard were taken to hospitals, said Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley. The driver was identified as Joseph A. Clabaugh Jr., 66, of Hanover, Pa.

The bus accident caused a secondary wreck between two cars, and one person from those vehicles also was hospitalized, Shipley said.

All of the injured were expected to survive.

Witnesses who spoke to the injured passengers said the people on the bus had spent the day at the National Zoo and Smithsonian museums and were headed home to Carlisle, Pa. Kirk R. Wilson, the mayor of Carlisle Borough, said the children are home-schooled.

A team of investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board was dispatched to Bethesda to help with the probe.

The battered white bus with green lettering remained on the wall with its windows smashed immediately after the wreck. Rescue ladders were propped against its side, and the highway was littered with debris.

Injured and bleeding adults and children, bandaged and looking stunned, gathered on the roadway as medics tended to them.

One woman held what appeared to be an ice pack to her head. A child sat with a large head bandage and was comforted by an adult. Another child with a Washington Redskins ball cap and red hoodie had what looked like a skinned knee.

Officials said the driver's body remained on the bus after the survivors escaped or were extricated from the vehicle. It was removed about 8:30 p.m.

A state police helicopter hovered overhead while police dogs searched around the bus to make sure no victims had been ejected and gone undiscovered. Traffic was jammed on the Capital Beltway and along surrounding side streets.

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