A horrific collision between a Greyhound bus and a semi-truck on an interstate in New Mexico killed at least eight passengers and sent dozens of others to area hospitals, authorities reported Friday.
The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator said that seven bodies were recovered from the scene of Thursday afternoon’s accident and that another person died after being taken to a hospital for treatment.
Preliminary information indicated the semi was headed east when it blew a tire, sending the rig across the median and into oncoming traffic where it smashed into the bus, New Mexico State Police said.
Television footage of the crash site on Interstate 40 near the Arizona border showed the front of the bus had crumpled after impact. The truck was on its side with debris scattered over the highway and a nearby median.
The driver of the semi-truck sustained non-life-threatening injuries, state police said.
Passing motorists described a chaotic scene with passengers on the ground and people screaming.
Eric Huff was heading to the Grand Canyon with his girlfriend when they came across the crash.
Huff said the semi’s trailer was upside down and “shredded to pieces,” and the front of the Greyhound bus was smashed, with many of the seats pressed together. Part of the side of the bus was torn off, he said.
“It was an awe-inspiring terrible scene,” he said
Truck driver Santos Soto III shot video showing the front of the Greyhound sheared off and the semi split open, with its contents strewn across the highway.
He saw people sobbing on the side of the road as bystanders tried to comfort them.
“I was really traumatized myself, because I’ve been driving about two years and I had never seen anything like that before,” Soto said.
“I’m a pretty strong person and I broke down and cried for at least 30 minutes,” he added.
Greyhound said the bus, which originated in St. Louis on Wednesday, had stopped in Albuquerque and was en route to Phoenix with 47 passengers.
“We are fully cooperating with local authorities and will also complete an investigation of our own,” Greyhound spokeswoman Crystal Booker said in a statement.
The crash occurred near the town of Thoreau. It forced the closure of the westbound lanes of the interstate and traffic was backing up as travelers were diverted.
“It was chaos,” said Officer Ray Wilson, a New Mexico State Police spokesman, in a media briefing. “The officers did a great job of sifting through the wreckage and the rubble to get survivors out of the bus…”
More than 33 patients have been transported to local area hospitals with injuries, some are said to be in critical condition, ABC News reported, quoting authorities.
Christopher Jones said he got to the accident site just after the crash.
“I saw the tractor trailer flipped upside down the driver of the tractor trailer was on the shoulder just sitting there. So I grabbed my medical kit and grabbed a bunch of my gloves and got out there and just started helping people and it was a pretty rough site,” Jones told ABC News.
Jones, who said he used to be a volunteer firefighter and EMT, described the scene as “one of the hardest” he’s ever had to see.