PUEBLO, Colo. (KKTV) - Two people were killed when a charter bus transporting a group of church youth ran off the road and collided with a bridge outside Pueblo Sunday afternoon.
Troopers say nine high school students and six adults were on board the bus when it crashed on southbound I-25 near mile marker 109.
"[The bus] went off the right side of the roadway ... and it collided with a bridge embankment," said Sgt. Blake White with Colorado State Patrol. "After it hit the bridge embankment, it came to a stop shortly thereafter."
State Patrol said it appeared everyone on the bus was unrestrained when it crashed. The driver and one passenger were thrown from the bus and died at the scene.
The bus was driving the teens and their chaperones home to Albuquerque following the Steubenville of the Rockies Youth Conference in Denver. The group is from the Aquinas Newman Center of the University of New Mexico
Five passengers were trapped and had to be freed from the bus.
"The stability of the bus was in question, so crews had to work very cautiously, as well as the fact that they had to make sure that the bus was stabilized as they were making those extrications," said Pueblo West Fire Chief Brian Caserta.
Fourteen ambulances and three medical choppers responded to the scene. One person was airlifted to the hospital and 12 others were taken by ground. Injuries to the survivors range from minor to critical. Parkview Medical Center and St. Mary-Corwin each received six patients; State Patrol confirmed the 13th patient was taken to Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs.
As of Monday night, seven patients had been discharged and five remained in critical condition.
The Aquinas Newman Center identified the deceased on their website as driver Anthony Padilla, 36, and seminarian Jason Marshall, 53.
The Archbishop John Wester released this statement:
Jason was a splendid and exemplary seminarian, a humble man who deeply cared for others. He always brightened our spirits and had a positive outlook on life. We will miss him very, very much. May he rest in peace. Jason was the son of Jim and Diane Marshall and the brother of Jill, James and Jeff. Jason was a member of Our Lady of the Annunciation parish in Albuquerque, New Mexico and was born in Staten Island, New York. He attended the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio and was in his second year of Theology.”
The charter bus company, Follow the Sun, Inc., tells 11 News initial reports by Colorado State Patrol show the driver may have suffered a medical episode prior to the accident. The company, which is based out of Albuquerque, also says the bus was traveling below the speed limit at the time of the accident.
Federal inspection reports show this is the first deadly crash Follow the Sun has had in at least two years. According to records from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association, their drivers also have not failed any inspections in that same time period. Reports from the FMCSA show that the company drives thousands of miles each year carrying passengers all over.
A spokesperson with Follow the Sun, Inc. tells 11 News the company is working with CSP as they conduct their investigation.
"It is very important that we understand exactly what happened in case there is anything we or the transportation industry as a whole can learn from it," said spokesperson Gil Rudawsky. "We extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of both the driver and the passenger. Our prayers are also with those who were injured."
Stephen Berg, the bishop of Pueblo, released a statement Monday. It reads in part:
"I am confident in the assurances I give our suffering brothers and sisters at the Aquinas Newman Center at the University of New Mexico that they have the love, prayerful solidarity, and condolences of the people, priests, deacons, and religious of the Diocese of Pueblo.
I ask that an intercession for those who died, and the survivors, friends and family be part of our Sunday Masses this coming weekend (June 29-30)."
The Aquinas Newman Center said it would be holding a special mass on Wednesday. Masses have also been announced in Denver.
Troopers are asking for witnesses who saw the accident. If you have any information that could help investigators, they're asking you to call 719-544-2424.