Quantico, VA Commuter Bus Accident, Feb 1981


Quantico, Va. (UPI) -- A commuter bus changing lanes on a bridge on Interstate 95 skidded along the guard rail and hit an abutment, then toppled headfirst into Chapawamsic Creek killing 10 people and injuring at least 29 others, a Virginia State Police spokesman said.
The Virginia State Police were at a loss to explain why the southbound bus, owned by D & J Transportation of Fredericksburg, hit the guard rail just after 4 p.m. as it was traveling about 30 miles from Washington on its regular commuter run.
"It was changing lanes from left to right," said Sgt. Paul Reardon, who was driving directly behind the bus. "It looked like he (the driver) never corrected. He just went right on."
"Most of them were asleep when it happened," said Martha Selmly, community relations director at Potomac Hospital where 11 of the injured were taken after the Wednesday afternoon accident in rush hour traffic.
"Several of them said they were asleep and when they woke up, they were in the water," she said.
One man was treated and released while 10 were admitted to the Woodbridge facility, she said. Of those 10, one was in critical condition, two serious, and the rest in fair condition, with mostly lacerations and fractures.
Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, which received the 10 killed in the wreck, admitted one man who was in stable condition with a fractured leg and a collapsed lung.
Two other injured women were taken to the Washington Hospital Center's shock-trauma unit where one was reported in very critical condition and the other in critical condition.
A spokeswoman at Mary Washington Hospital identified the dead as:
CARL EARL of Stafford, the bus driver.
JOSEPH BROWN, of Spotsylvania.
VIRGINIA COX of Stafford.
RICHARD SAGLE of Fredericksburg.
DOLORES GARRISON of Fredericksburg.
MARGARET WILSON, no address given.
JULIA SMITH of Fredericksburg.
ZOHRAB TASHJIAN, no address given.
The last victim, a white female, was not identified late Wednesday night.
The bus skidded along the guard rail for 50 to 60 feet before it hit an abutment on the bridge spanning the creek, said Reardon.
It then crashed 60 feet, headfirst into the shallow creek, burying the front in the mud of the south bank.
A number of motorists stopped and ran down the embankment to help the victims. Reardon said, adding there was a silence just after the wreck, but the passengers began screaming when they realized what had happened.
Mark Milligan, a photographer at the Potomac News, said survivors and victims were trapped together in the wreckage when he arrived. "I could see faces floating just under the surface in the water. Some (passengers) were alive and trapped. There was a bunch of dead passengers floating in the water," he said.
Wayne Richey, a truck driver from Colonial Heights, Va., said he and others broke bus windows to get to the passengers.
"Everyone was wedged in, some of them in shock, some dazed -- on the verge of being panicked," Richey said. "There were bodies in the water. There were screams."
Richey said one woman almost was hysterical because she was under water and a body was on top of her.
He said the driver seemed to have trouble controlling the bus just before he hit the rail.
"It was almost like his steering control went out," the truck driver said.
The southbound lane of I-95 was closed at the boundary of Prince William and Stafford Counties at the creek where the bus went over, police said.

Tyrone Daily Herald Pennsylvania 1981-02-19


D&J bus Wreck at Chopawamsic Creek, 18 Feb, 1981

Mr. Beitler,

I was on that bus and your numbers are incorrect. As I recall, 11 died instantly, another died at washington hospital center the next day. 12 others were seriously injured.

Not sure why you are working on this story, but if you want details, let me know. I was there.