OSSEO, Wis. - A bus carrying high school students home from a band competition crashed into a tractor-trailer that had jackknifed on the interstate early Sunday, killing four adults and an 11-year-old girl, officials said.
Twenty-nine others were injured, some seriously, troopers said.
"It's a terrific tragedy and loss to our school and community," said Chippewa Falls schools superintendent Mike Schoch. "Our community is stunned by it."
The semi had gone off the shoulder of Interstate 94 and jackknifed, and was blocking the westbound lane, Wisconsin State Patrol Capt. Douglas Notbohm said.
"I don't know how much opportunity there was for braking action," he said. The bus slammed into the overturned truck, but it didn't roll or catch fire, patrol spokesman Brent Pickard said.
It was the first of four buses carrying about 140 students and 15 to 20 adult chaperones, Schoch said.
Bus driver Paul Rasmus, 78, of Chippewa Falls, died in the crash. The identities of the other victims — two men, ages 48 and 24, a 51-year-old woman and the girl — were withheld pending notification of their families.
The semi driver, employed by Whole Foods Market Group of Munster, Ind., was en route from Indiana to Minnesota, Notbohm said. The driver was hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.
Officials didn't know why the truck went off the shoulder and overturned. The driver told investigators he had not fallen asleep, Notbohm said, and Pickard said the road was dry at the time of the crash.
Two things, Bus Hours of Service standards have not been changed even though freight standards have been tightened (though not enough). A driver hauling toilet paper is required to take more time off between shifts and to work shorter days than a driver carrying 16 to 90 souls. Second, Technology to prevent run off road accidents and improve night vision is out there. The costs to install such systems surely are less than the liabilities the Grocery chain that owned the truck and charter bus firm will incur from this tragedy.