1 dead, 9 hurt when bus forces car off the road on I-95 near Benson
Posted August 2, 2015
Benson, N.C. — One person was killed and nine were injured when a bus crossed a median, causing a car to swerve off the road early Sunday on Interstate 95 near Benson, authorities said.
The North Carolina State Highway Patrol said the crash happened shortly after 4 a.m. near mile marker 82 in Johnston County. Authorities said the bus driver, 23-year-old Eric Jimmerson, of New York, N.Y., fell asleep at the wheel.
Troopers confirmed 54-year-old Enid Ortiz, a passenger in the Ford Mustang involved in the incident, died on scene. The driver of the Mustang, 68-year-old Wilfredo Ortiz, swerved off the road to the right to avoid contact with the bus. The vehicle came to rest after striking a tree.
Two children in the Mustang, ages 12 and 13, were transported to WakeMed with non-life threatening injuries. The names of the children in the car were not released, but they were identified as the grandchildren of the two adults in the vehicle.
Wilfredo Ortiz was treated at WakeMed and released late Sunday.
Jimmerson was ejected from the bus after crossing the median. He was transported to WakMed and is listed in critical condition. Charges against Jimmerson are being considered by the District Attorney.
The bus is operated by Apex Coach located in Brooklyn.
Johnston County Assistant EMS Chief Billy Langston said the southbound bus crossed the median, then the driver apparently tried to correct and crossed back into the southbound lanes, causing the car to swerve.
He said the crash could have been worse if it had happened during a peak traffic time.
"Our traffic demand was at its lowest, so we were able to have one of the best scenarios given to us," Langston said. "Our resources were at max availability, and the traffic was the least it could be."
There were 48 passengers on the 60-seat bus. The group was traveling from Queens, N.Y., to a religious conference at the Science of the Soul Study Center in Fayetteville. The group describes itself as a non-denominational organization that focuses on self-realization.
"To hear what happened was really a shock," said Rajan Shamdasani, a spokesman for the group. "The loss of somebody's loved one - you never want to hear of somebody's death. It hit me hard."
He said four of the bus passengers were among the nine who were injured, including an infant. They were treated and released Sunday afternoon, he said.
"We're still trying to gather the facts ourselves," Shamdasani said. "Our hearts go out to the family, that's all I can say."
He said the crash cast a somber mood over the gathering Sunday.
"Something like this, when it's that close up and personal, it's never easy to just brush it off," he said. "This family is in our prayers."
The southbound and northbound lanes of I-95 were blocked but reopened. The bus was towed from the scene, and the remaining passengers were loaded onto another bus.