LOXLEY, Ala. - A charter bus carrying high school band members home to Texas from Disney World plunged into an Alabama ravine early Tuesday, and numerous children were being carried by helicopters to emergency rooms.
Al.com reported that injuries range from minor to critical, and that at least one critically injured passenger was taken to the University of South Alabama Hospital, the only level one trauma center in the region.
Mike Burke, a spokesman at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, Florida, said about 20 patients had been brought to the hospital by ambulance and helicopter, "and more are on the way."
"We have multiple injuries; the bus went down into a ravine," said Chris Elliott, a Baldwin County commissioner who helped out at the county emergency management center following the crash. "The fire department and officers are having to rappel down into the area to get into it."
Baldwin County Sheriff's Office Major Anthony Lowery said the bus ran off the highway before dawn. An image of the wreckage shows the crumpled bus landed on its side, reportedly more than 50 feet below the shoulder of the highway.
Helicopters and ambulances took the injured to three hospitals in Mobile and Pensacola, Florida, plus a free-standing emergency room in rural Baldwin County, Elliott said.
"Everybody is being transferred to a hospital to at least be checked out," said Elliott.
Sheriff Huey Moss Mack says Interstate 10 has been closed in both directions. Traffic has been diverted and Alabama State troopers are asking people to avoid the area.
Channelview Independent School District spokesman Mark Kramer confirmed in a statement that the accident involved a charter bus carrying Channelview High School band members. Kramer said immediate details were limited and school authorities are in contact with law enforcement in Alabama to get more information.
One image posted on the band's Facebook page hours before the crash showed a large group posing outside Disney World.