MARION, Ark. (AP) — A bus carrying Chicago-area tourists to a Mississippi casino crashed and overturned early yesterday, killing at least 15 persons, state police said.
The bus crashed on Interstate 55 in northeastern Arkansas, near Memphis, Tenn. It was headed to Tunica, Miss., a popular destination for casino gambling, when the accident happened about 5 a.m.
An undetermined number of passengers were injured and taken to hospitals. Seven were listed in stable condition at a hospital in West Memphis.
Thirty persons were aboard the bus, which was the only vehicle involved in the crash. Some of the dead were found crushed beneath the bus after wrecker crews arrived to pull it upright, state police spokesman Bill Sadler said.
To reach other victims, emergency workers sheared off the top of the bus. The roof lay nearby while rescuers worked amid popped-open suitcases, strewn clothes, pillows and cameras.
Authorities on the scene had not determined a cause for the crash, which occurred near a point where Interstate 55 veers to the left to take travelers into Memphis.
From an overpass near the crash site, tracks could be seen in the grass near the highway, suggesting the bus went straight as the road curved.
After leaving the highway, it went down a slight incline and flipped as it cut through a small ditch, traveling about 100 yards from the highway before stopping near an exit.
Police cautioned that investigators may not know for weeks what happened. “They’ll be so many things they’ll need to look at,” Mr. Sadler said.
Witnesses and survivors told police the trip was uneventful, then “the next thing we knew, we were off the road,” Mr. Sadler said.
A light mist was falling at the time of the crash, but visibility did not appear to be significantly limited, he said.
The bus was owned by Walters Charter and Tours of Chicago.
Company owner Roosevelt Walters said his wife was aboard the bus because she had organized the trip for a group of friends, retirees and teachers. He said his brother, Herbert Walters, was driving.
Mr. Walters learned later that his brother had been killed in the crash. He was still awaiting word on his wife.
“This thing that happened, nobody has an answer for. All we can do is direct them to God,” said the Rev. Curtis Reed, who was serving as a family spokesman.
Mr. Walters said he inspected the vehicle, his only tour bus, on Friday and found it to be in good mechanical shape.
The group left from his home Friday evening and had planned to spend the weekend at a casino, then return to Chicago by tomorrow night.
The bus made the trip twice a year, and most of those in the group knew each other. Mr. Walters said his stepson, his sister-in-law, a cousin and his neighbors were also aboard.
The National Transportation Safety Board planned to join the investigation.
The accident occurred about five miles from Marion, Ark., just outside Memphis, Tenn.