BUS CRASH - TENNESSEE
compiled by Dee Finney
Rescue workers at the scene of an overturned Greyhound bus near Manchester, Tenn. (Chad Baker/AP Photo)
Greyhound Suspends Service After Fatal Crash
N A S H V I L L E, Oct. 3, 2001 A deadly bus crash in Tennessee in which the the driver was reportedly attacked by a passenger has prompted Greyhound to suspend all bus service in the United States.
As a precaution we are halting service in the U.S.," Greyhound spokeswoman Lynn Brown said. The company has 2,300 buses nationwide.
The attack did not appear to be terrorist-related, U.S. Department of Justice officials said.
The incident occurred around 4 a.m. on an Atlanta-bound Greyhound bus near Manchester, Tenn., about 65 miles outside of Nashville.
"The bus driver was assaulted and [it] resulted in an accident," said Manchester Police spokesman Steve Deford.
The bus, No. 1115, swerved at least four times and crossed the highway median before turning over.
Drivers Throat Reportedly Slit
Passenger Carly Rinearson told local television station WTVF that a man aboard the bus had slit the driver's throat, sending it veering out of control. Local officials, however, declined to comment on the exact nature of the assault on the driver.
U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman Susan Dryden said the alleged assailant had a Croatian passport. He apparently was killed in incident.
Greyhound bus No. 1115 crashed in Manchester, Tenn.
There were conflicting reports on the number of deaths.
"We have six people who were dead at the scene," Tennessee Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Dana Keeton said this morning.
Earlier police reports put the number of fatalities at seven, and officials at nearby Vanderbilt Hospital said 10 people died at the scene.
Keeton said 32 people were injured, including the driver, who was airlifted to a local hospital. Initial reports said the bus had 38 people aboard.
The FBI arrived at the scene and was assisting in the investigation.
Greyhound has established a hotline for relatives seeking information about passengers aboard the bus: (800) 884-2744.
ABCNEWS affiliate WKRN in Nashville contributed to this report.
|Driver describes attacker in Greyhound bus crash
October 3, 2001 Posted: 12:03 PM EDT (1603 GMT)
A sign posted Wednesday at Boston's South Station bus depot announces the suspension of Greyhound services, which were to resume at 1 p.m. EDT.
MANCHESTER, Tennessee (CNN) -- Greyhound Lines suspended service for several hours Wednesday after one of its buses crashed in Tennessee when an attacker slit the driver's throat. Ten died in the ensuing crash, authorities said.
The driver, who survived the attack, told doctors that a man cut his throat with "a razor or box cutter," then grabbed the steering wheel, sending the bus careering off an interstate highway.
Greyhound said service was to resume Wednesday at noon CDT (1 p.m. EDT) after the FBI told the company it was safe to continue.
Ten people were killed in the crash in Manchester, said Dana Keeton, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Safety. The man who attacked the bus driver was among the dead, said Steve Deford, the Coffee County 911 director.
Dr. Ralph Bard, a surgeon at the Medical Center of Manchester who treated the bus driver, quoted the driver as saying his attacker had asked several times about the route of the bus.
"The man came up this last time and cut his throat with what he described as either a razor or a box cutter and then he actually grabbed the wheel and forced the bus across the median to the oncoming traffic," Bard quoted the driver as saying.
The driver told Bard that the man was "5-foot-10 or 5-foot-11 and 150 to 160 pounds." Bard said the driver told him the man was "foreign" and spoke with an accent.
Bard said the driver never lost consciousness. He said the driver was able to climb out of the wrecked bus and go for help. Bard said the driver, a Greyhound veteran from Marietta, Georgia, is in good condition after surgery to treat the laceration on his neck.
A government official said the man was carrying Croatian identification.
Carly Rinearson, a passenger on the bus, said in a phone call to CNN affiliate WTVF that a man kept asking if he could have her seat near the front of the bus. She said he appeared agitated and kept asking what time it was.
Rinearson said when she refused to give up her seat, "He just went up to the bus driver and ... slit his throat. And the bus driver turned the wheel and the bus tipped over."
She did not describe the man further or say what kind of weapon he had.
Rescue workers and police are shown at the scene of an overturned Greyhound bus near Manchester, Tennessee, early Wednesday.
The Knoxville, Tennessee, field office of the FBI sent agents to the scene. They said if there was no apparent violation of federal law, the investigation would be turned back over to state and local authorities.
In Washington, federal officials told CNN they believe the crash to be an isolated incident and not terrorism.
Authorities said the incident occurred at 4:13 a.m. CDT. The bus, running on schedule No. 1115, had been carrying 36 passengers and had originated in Chicago, Illinois, on a trip to Orlando, Florida. The crash occurred on the trip's leg from Louisville, Kentucky, to Atlanta, Georgia, Greyhound said. It had departed Louisville at 1:15 a.m. CDT and was due to arrive in Atlanta at 8 a.m. EDT.
When police arrived, the bus was lying on its side by Interstate 24 after running across the median and then the oncoming lanes. No other vehicles were involved. The accident occurred near the intersection of I-24 and state Highway 41 near mile marker 105, police said.
At the scene said that there were skid marks where the bus veered across the median, ran off the road and turned over.
Victims were taken to local hospitals with some airlifted to hospitals in Nashville to the north and Chattanooga to the south by helicopter. Deford said 32 people had been taken to hospitals.
Kristin Parlsey, the Greyhound representative, said Greyhound had set up a number for families to call -- 800-884-2744.
|Wednesday October 03 05:39 PM EDT
Bus Passengers Stranded In Cleveland Moving Again
Wednesday's assault on a Greyhound bus driver in central Tennessee appears to be an isolated event -- not an act of terrorism -- according to the Justice Department .
But NewsChannel5's Tracy Carloss reports that the bus company didn't take any chances with passenger safety. It suspended service, even if only temporarily.
Two women were supposed to be in Buffalo, N.Y., by Wednesday afternoon, but they waited for several hours to board the eastbound Greyhound bus.
Like hundreds of other passengers, they spent some unexpected time in Cleveland.
"(We) sat on the floor and tried to call friends and tell them we (were) OK," traveler Louise Jensen said.
Shortly after the , Greyhound bus service across the country was halted, including service in Cleveland. The shutdowns stranded many passengers.
The company said that, as a precaution, it pulled nearly 2,000 buses off the nation's highways.
Some stranded travelers in Cleveland hailed cabs in the meantime, while others kept one other company.
Wheels were again in motion at about 1 p.m., under the watchful eye of even more beefed-up security.
Passengers in several cities will now be checked with a wand to detect metal devices, and luggage is being hand-searched.
But again, the Justice Department said that it doesn't think that Wednesday's fatal bus crash was terrorist-related.
|Wednesday October 3, 4:55 pm Eastern Time
Greyhound looks for ways to better protect drivers
WASHINGTON, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Greyhound Lines President Craig Lentzsch said all options for protecting bus drivers were now under consideration as part of an expedited security review prompted by Wednesday's deadly crash in Tennessee.
Lentzsch and law enforcement officials said the crash, which killed six and was caused by a man who attacked the driver, appeared to be an isolated incident and not related to the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
The driver, who was not identified, was hurt. He told doctors who treated him that the suspect, who was among those killed, attacked him with a box cutter or a razor.
Lentzsch said the company received no indication from the FBI or any other law enforcement that Greyhound was a likely target of any attack, underscoring the belief that the incident was solely the work of what Lentzsch called a ``deranged individual.''
Nevertheless, the incident, which resulted in the first-ever nationwide stoppage of Greyhound service, prompted questions about long-haul bus security, especially the vulnerability of drivers.
``Our drivers are basically alone with passengers for a long period of time,'' Lentzsch said. ``Their exposure is lengthy and lonely and that does put them at greater risk.''
Asked if securing the driver's area with a compartment accessible through a door like airline cockpits, Lentszch said that would be difficult but not out of the question.
``We're looking at all options and not rejecting any at this time,'' Lentzsch said. ``We are expediting our review.''
Lentzsch met with Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and other officials in Washington to discuss safety steps.
He said since Sept. 11, Greyhound has stepped up security, like adding more guards and cameras in terminals and recording the names of passengers on its non-commuter services.
The executive also said that a few of its stations had begun testing electronic searches and hand searches of luggage.
``We operate the safest mode of transportation in the United States and we are going to make it safer,'' Lentzsch said. ``We are going to implement both visible and an invisible improvements to our safety and security program.''
Greyhound is a unit of financially troubled Laidlaw Inc. (Toronto:LDM.TO - news), a transportation company that has been in bankruptcy proceedings.
Lentzsch said Greyhound had enough liquidity to ride out the impact of Wednesday's shutdown. Nationwide service resumed after several hours.
|Wednesday October 03 04:39 PM EDT
Passengers Stranded At Sacramento Station
Greyhound bus service has been stopped across the nation, stranding hundreds of passengers in downtown Sacramento, following a crash in Tennessee that killed several people.
Early witness reports indicate that a passenger on that bus slit the driver's throat, causing the crash. At least six people are confirmed dead.
Greyhound officials said the service stoppage was only a precaution. Service resumed in Sacramento at about 10 a.m.
About 200 passengers were stranded Wednesday morning at the Greyhound station in downtown Sacramento, where four buses were scheduled to depart, officials said.
"I think Greyhound is overreacting," Bill Smith said. "I think it was just a simple case of an out-of-control passenger. They have instances like this. You've got all kinds of crazy people riding buses these days."
The station was so crowded that passengers without active tickets were asked to leave.
|Wednesday October 3, 3:41 pm Eastern Time
Bus deaths after attack cause jitters in US
(UPDATE: Lowers death toll to six from 10)
MANCHESTER, Tenn., Oct 3 (Reuters) - Six passengers were killed in a Greyhound bus crash on Wednesday after a man slit the driver's throat and sent the vehicle careening off a Tennessee highway, witnesses said.
The incident, just three weeks after the attacks on New York and Washington, triggered the suspension for several hours of Greyhound's services across a still jittery United States.
Greyhound Lines, which lowered the death toll from the predawn crash to six from the 10 it reported earlier, suspended service as a precaution, then announced the system was safe and that it had resumed operations. Greyhound carries about 25 million passengers a year as the last remaining nationwide bus service.
Both the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Transportation said initial indications were that the incident was not related to the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
Greyhound, the largest provider of intercity bus service in the United States, suspended travel for one day after those attacks.
A doctor who treated the bus driver for cuts on his neck said the driver told him the assailant had asked repeated questions about the bus' route and then suddenly attacked him with either a razor or a box cutter. Box cutters were believed the weapon of choice used by some of the Sept. 11 hijackers.
The man, who the driver described as speaking English with a foreign accent, grabbed the steering wheel and sent the bus veering toward oncoming lanes and it flipped on its side along the highway, Dr. Ralph Bard of Manchester Hospital said.
The bleeding driver managed to climb out of the overturned bus and was in good condition. The doctor quoted the driver as saying ``the suspect never acted threatening until the actual attack,'' after boarding the bus in Louisville, Kentucky.
A woman passenger riding in the front seat told a local television station that the man in his early 30s had been acting strangely, repeatedly asking her what time it was. She said he had asked for her seat but she refused.
The assailant was among the dead, and the local medical examiner said he was carrying a Croatian passport, the doctor said. A Justice Department official confirmed the man had a Croatian passport.
The crash appeared to have been ``a random incident not related to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks,'' said Dave Longo, a spokesperson for the Federal Motorcarrier Administration, a division of the U.S. Transportation Department.
Justice Department spokeswoman Susan Dryden said ``at this time we don't believe it was terrorist related,'' but the FBI sent a team to investigate.
Greyhound President Craig Lentzch sought to reassure passengers and said those traveling on Wednesday could use their tickets on Amtrak passenger trains where space was available if they wished.
``Our operations are safe and are now up and running,'' Lentzch said. ``(The crash was) the result of an isolated act by a single, deranged individual,'' according to what he had been told by federal investigators.
Lentzch said a few of its bus stations had begun electronic searches and hand searches of luggage would be expanded.
The incident occurred on a bus bound for Orlando, Florida, from Chicago along Interstate highway 24 about 60 miles (100 km) southeast of Nashville. There were 38 passengers on board and the injured were taken to local hospitals.
The service suspension stranded passengers from coast to coast at a time when the suicide airline hijackings had driven many passenger to alternative means of transportation, such as the bus and train.
``I'm scared and worried because I'm now trying to figure out again which way is the best to travel. I took the bus because I didn't want to fly after what happened,'' said George Garecht, a 30-year-old from Chicago stuck in Atlanta's bus terminal.
But Masa Yoshima, of Osaka, Japan, who has been touring the United States on Greyhound buses for two weeks, said being stuck in Miami would not deter him.
``I will have to take out my city map and see some more sites in Miami,'' said Yoshima, vowing to continue his bus tour of America.
Greyhound Lines is a subsidiary of Laidlaw Inc. (Toronto:LDM.TO - news), a company which has been in bankruptcy proceedings.
|Wednesday October 03 04:05 PM EDT
Local Passengers Temporarily Stranded
Local Greyhound bus passengers were confused and temporarily stranded Wednesday after a bus crashed in Tennessee, halting service nationwide.
The buses at Union Passenger Station on Loyola Avenue were parked behind locked gates and access inside the terminal was restricted, after reports surfaced that the Tennessee driver's throat had been slashed by a passenger.
As word of the crash spread, some passengers were making arrangements to extend their stay in New Orleans.
"It won't make any difference to me," Greyhound passenger Derek James said. "I mean, obviously, they've taken pretty Draconian steps following the incident. If they'd ignored it, I'd be a bit worried."
Service resumed at noon, Greyhound officials said.
Wednesday, October 3, 2001
Tennessee bus crash 'very suspicious'
Congressman says don't rule out bin Laden connection
MANCHESTER, Tenn. -- Calling it "very suspicious," Rep. Bob Clement, D-Tenn., suggested the hijacking and crash of a Greyhound bus in southern middle Tennessee would require more investigation before any connection to the Sept. 11 Islamic terrorist attacks could be ruled out.
The incident, which occurred on Interstate 24 near Manchester, Tennessee, took the lives of at least six passengers, but that number has fluctuated throughout the day from as few as four to as many as 10, and conflicting statements have snowballed across the state as the day has progressed.
According to passenger Carly Rinearson, speaking to Nashville's CBS affiliate WTVF via her cell phone from the crash site some 30 miles south of Nashville, a man, apparently in his mid-30s and speaking in a foreign accent, requested her front row seat several times as the bus made its way towards Atlanta, Ga. He also requested that several other passengers exchange seats with him, but they also refused.
The man appeared to frequently check his watch and then, according to Rinearson and confirmed by Coffee County, Tenn., medical examiner Al Brandon, he approached the driver, slit his throat and then grabbed the steering wheel, forcing the bus into the oncoming lanes before tipping over and coming to rest on an embankment across the interstate. Brandon told authorities that the driver managed to crawl out a window and flag down traffic for assistance. The attacker was allegedly thrown through the windshield and died.
Originating in Chicago, the bus made stops in Indianapolis, Ind., Louisville, Ky., and Nashville, Tenn., according to Kristen Parsley, a spokesperson for Greyhound. The incident caused Greyhound to shut down its nationwide schedule of 1900-plus bus routes for several hours on Wednesday, but by 1 p.m. Eastern, the Greyhound fleet was back in operation.
But as the day passed, questions continue to surface. Still at issue is the number of fatalities. MSNBC and CNN are reporting six deaths, while the Vanderbilt Medical Center, one of three facilities treating the majority of the wounded, announced 10 fatalities. WTVF in Nashville originally accepted Vanderbilt's count, but has now changed its numbers to "at least six." A Tennessee Highway Patrol officer told WND, "We basically don't know what's going on other than what's on the television."
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the FBI were called in to assess whether the crash may have been terrorist-connected. The Knoxville, Tenn., FBI office provided the agents, although the Nashville and Chattanooga field offices were both closer.
Further complicating the issue for Clement, son of former Tennessee governor Frank Clement, is the fact that the alleged assailant carried a Croatian passport. Clement told WTVF that he had spoken to both the TBI and the FBI and considered the situation "very suspicious," implying statements by Justice Department officials that the incident was the "result of an isolated act by a single deranged individual" was something of a rush to judgment.
The identity of the attacker has not been released, merely the fact that he carried a Croatian passport. The national press, including CNN and MSNBC, have cast the incident as probably separate from the Sept. 11 terror attacks against the U.S. However, many Croats are Muslim and Osama bin Laden did provide both money and manpower for fighting in the region some years ago.
Muddying the water even more is the fact that just Tuesday night, WTVF reported that the FBI had tracked a bin Laden contact, one Zafer al-Atasi, to Nashville. "Atasi is a 32-year-old Saudi Arabian national who, until a few short months ago, lived in Nashville," said Dana Keeton, spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Public Safety. NewsChannel 5 reported that Atasi's drivers license gave his address at the Lexington Apartments on Old Hickory Boulevard in Bellevue. He had left the apartment, however, and had left no forwarding address.
"That license was suspended in August of this year for unpaid traffic citations. The majority of those three or four minor traffic violations occurred in Davidson County. A couple occurred in Haywood County," concluded Keeton, in comments to WTVF Tuesday night. According to that same report, Atasi was in federal custody as of Tuesday night. Although there is no confirmed link at this time between Islamic terrorists and the Greyhound bus crash, no possibilities are being discounted either, said a spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Public Safety: "At this juncture, nothing can be taken for granted."
Echoing Clement's hesitation to ascribe this to a single act by a deranged person was Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Larry Wallace. In a press conference earlier today, Wallace told reporters, "This was more than an accident, but to say it was terrorist-related, I cannot and will not do that." He wouldn't elaborate on whether the suspect is of Croatian descent, as was reported by Clement to WTVF earlier. Wallace also noted that the ID might not be authentic.
At present, both the FBI and TBI are continuing to pursue leads and, according to TBI sources, are looking for possible connections between the bus hijacker and Zafer Al-Atasi.