Fire, EMS personnel jump into action at scene of tour bus crash in New York

All 57 bus passengers, coming from Poughkeepsie to visit Niagara Falls, were injured in the rollover

James McClendon

BRUTUS, N.Y. — The Port Byron Fire Department was in the middle of a community celebration of its 150th anniversary Saturday. Then, as it has for a century and a half, duty called.

Fire Chief Corey Rooker’s crew left the party and the firefighters rushed to help where a tour bus rolled over on the New York State Thruway.

Rooker and his crew were among many departments responding to the rollover on the westbound side of the Thruway west of Exit 40 at Weedsport. All 57 bus passengers, coming from Poughkeepsie to visit Niagara Falls, were injured. All are expected to live.

First responders found a scene like nothing they’d seen before, Weedsport Fire Chief David James said. Injured passengers were escaping the overturned bus.

Drivers passing by pulled over to help. Some were doctors and nurses, Rooker said.

Rooker said he could see scratches on the top of the bus where it had slid along the highway, and almost all of the windows had been blown out, he said.

“You could tell when you saw the tracks it left that the bus had been on quite a ride,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years. This is something I have never seen in terms of the number of people injured.”

Many of the people injured in the bus appeared to be families with small children and even infants, Rooker said. Most of the people who had been on the bus spoke Spanish, so there was a language barrier for the responders, he said.

The scene was initially semi-chaotic, Rooker said. But as more emergency workers arrived, it became a smooth operation to get that many people to hospitals, he said.

Rooker said his ambulance crew helped with patient care, and his secondary pumper crew helped take care of any vehicle-related dangers and then they began patient care.

Twenty-five people were taken to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, a hospital official said. Twenty-six patients were taken to Auburn Community Hospital, state troopers said. Several people were also taken to Crouse Hospital in Syracuse, troopers said.

There were no immediate details from the hospital on the injuries or ages of the patients, according to Upstate spokesman Darryl Geddes.

Rooker said none of the injuries he witnessed looked life-threatening. He said the good Samaritans who pulled over to help were tremendous. He said one man even dropped off a dozen first-aid kits.

Rooker said after hours of working the disaster, his fire crews returned to Port Byron. The celebration, with food and live music, was over.

“There’s a feeling of immense pride and satisfaction that we can go from a relaxed situation to a serious accident like that,” said Rooker, chief of the department for the last 17 years.

“You never know when something like this can happen,” he said. “I am so proud.”

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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