New Orleans, LA Tour Bus Crash, Sep 1981


New Orleans (AP) - Two members of the Freddy Fender Band were killed Monday when their bus swerved across the median of rain-slick Interstate 10 and slammed head-on into an 18-wheel tractor-trailer rig, authorities said.
Two men in the truck were hospitalized, but a third band member aboard the bus, pianist SKIP EASTLAND, escaped with a slight injury.
Fender, who was not on the bus, arrived at the scene about an hour after the 3:30 p.m. crash. He grimly surveyed the wreckage of the bus but refused to talk to reporters.
The dead were identified as drummer JOSEPH "LITTLE JOE" LAMBERT, 39, of Slidell, and bus driver SONNY PARKER, 45, of Pearl River.
The impact ripped off the front end of the bus, ejecting LAMBERT and PARKER onto the muddy roadside. The tractor-trailer rig skidded more than 100 yards out into the swamp.
Hospital officials identified the injured truckers as GEORGE MALERICH, 49, of Hammond, Ind., and RANDY MANN, 28, his stepson.
MALERICH underwent intensive care with chest and spinal injuries. MANN, who received a fractured hip, was astonished that they had survived the crash.
"From what I saw of the truck, I'm amazed," said MANN, in an interview from his hospital bed. "I think the cab snapping off is what saved my life."
MANN said he barely had time to wrench the wheel to the right after spotting the bus careening toward him.
John Paul Ameen, an eyewitness to the crash, said it was raining when the bus tried to pass his car on the interstate.
"When he was going around the left side of the lane, he seemed to have lost control and veered off across the median, head on into the truck," Ameen said. "From that point, the bus spun around and the truck took the front end of the bus right down into the ditch with it."
He said he parked and ran back to help.
"There was no chance for the bus driver to brake at all," he said.
"It just happened too fast. It was raining at the time, but it seemed like he just lost control."
The wreck blocked the outbound lanes near the exit for NASA's complex at Michoud for nearly three hours.
At the point of the wreck, the interstate is at ground level - before a long elevated section leading into the city. Although the area is within the city limits, it is about a 15 minute drive east of the French Quarter.

Paris News Texas 1981-09-15