NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – A bus transporting migrant workers to Laredo, Texas, ran off an interstate in Arkansas early Friday morning killing six people on a foggy night.
The bus, traveling from Monroe, Michigan, ran off Interstate 40 and hit a bridge abutment about about 1 a.m. Friday. Police said a heavy storm had recently passed through the area and left light rain and fog in its wake, but it wasn't immediately known if weather played a role.
Arkansas State Police Maj. Mike Foster told reporters that the bus was being used by Vasquez Citrus and Hauling out of Lake Placid, Florida.
Foster said the bus had 22 people on board: the 28-year-old driver, identified as Roberto Vasquez of Monroe, Michigan, two employees of Vasquez Citrus and Hauling and 19 other passengers. Federal immigration officers were called to the crash to help translate for the Spanish-speaking survivors.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Bryan Cox says his agency is not pursuing any kind of criminal investigation of the people involved. Meanwhile, Arkansas State Police have reached out to the Mexican Consulate to notify relatives of the victims.
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The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences said it received three patients at its hospital. Two were treated and released, and a third was admitted to the hospital in fair condition, UAMS said.
The accident occurred along westbound Interstate 40 near its intersection with U.S. 67-167. The interchange is a bit tricky, requiring drivers to change lanes if they want to follow the route numbers that brought them into the area. They have about a minute to chart a course and execute it.
Television station KTHV posted a photo showing a white bus with "Continental" in broad letters on the side being towed from the scene, its roof partially crumpled. Another photograph showed people standing outside the bus beneath white blankets.
Jeff Lawson, who identified himself as the owner of Continental Charters in Detroit, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper that he sold a bus Saturday to a man who "said he needed a second bus to haul people from (Detroit) to Texas ... and Florida."
Lawson says that as part of the sale, he stipulated that the buyer remove the "Continental" lettering from the bus. He said Continental Charters did not have any scheduled routes in Arkansas on Thursday and does not regularly operate in the area.
The National Transportation Safety Board is sending investigators to look into the crash.
NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss said the agency is conducting an investigation separate from the police investigation and will look at safety issues related to the crash. He said investigators will focus on driver fatigue and how passengers were protected, but may look into other issues once they get on the scene.
Weiss didn't have a specific timeline for how long the investigation would take.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.