February 27, 2013

UMaine women's basketball bus crash leaves team feeling 'blessed'

Players, coaches treated for minor injuries; driver in a Boston hospital after losing consciousness

By Gillian Graham ggraham@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Massachusetts State Police examine the front of a bus that crashed in Georgetown, Mass., on Tuesday while carrying University of Maine women's basketball players to a game.

The Associated Press

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Police work at the scene in Georgetown, Mass., on Tuesday where a bus carrying University of Maine women's basketball players crashed on Interstate 95 north of Boston.

The Associated Press

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Location map: Georgetown, MA

A coach bus carrying the University of Maine women's basketball team suddenly veered to the left and hit a rumble strip before going airborne and crossing four lanes of traffic in a Tuesday night crash that showered passengers with broken glass.

As the bus plowed through snowbanks and down an embankment, coaches and the driver were thrown to the floor. After the bus stopped against small trees on the side of Interstate 95 north of Boston, passengers climbed down a tree that had been bent over by the crash to get out of the wrecked bus.

Despite a scene described as terrifying by witnesses, players and coaches walked away with minor injuries. The bus driver, who lost consciousness before the crash, is being treated in a Boston hospital but is expected to recover.

Paul Vachon of Augusta, whose daughter Amy Vachon is an assistant coach, said she called his home after the crash. The call was brief.

"She told her mother, 'I'm all right,' and then she said, 'I'll have to call you back later,'" Vachon said.

Tyson McHatten, assistant manager of media relations for the university, said the crash was horrifying.

"Somebody was watching out for us," McHatten said when reached by phone in Amesbury, Mass., where he was trying to salvage gear from the crashed bus. "Everyone feels very blessed. ... It could have been a lot worse than it was."

Courtney Anderson, a sophomore guard from Greene, said the team, en route to a game against Boston University, had just reboarded the bus a short while before the 8:30 p.m. accident, after stopping for dinner in Portsmouth. She said the 13 players were sitting toward the rear, mingling and talking, with the coaches up front. Team members heard a commotion "which made us brace ourselves," she said.

Players said it was a matter of seconds between when they realized something was wrong to the end of the crash.

Another player, Liz Wood, a freshman forward from Catlett, Va., said that from her seat on the right side, she could see headlights of northbound cars on the interstate as the bus crossed over the median and into oncoming traffic before leaving the road.

"That was kind of freaky," Wood said. "We saw the headlights coming toward us. We were lucky nothing hit us."

Players and coaches were headed back to Orono late Wednesday morning. All had been taken to Boston area hospitals for observation after the crash.

Milica Mitrovic, a freshman guard from Serbia, was treated at a local hospital for a broken hand. Head coach Richard Barron, who tried to assist after the driver lost consciousness, was treated for facial cuts.

Jeff Hamlin, the bus driver, is in fair condition in a Boston hospital, but he eventually will be transferred to a burn center, according to a spokesman for Cyr Bus Lines in Old Town.

Barron said the team used Cyr Bus Lines for its trips, but Hamlin was not the team's regular driver. He said he didn't know why the regular driver was not assigned to the trip Tuesday night. Police said they think Hamlin suffered some sort of medical condition but haven't said what it might have been.

Drivers who hold a Maine commercial license -- required to drive a charter bus -- must undergo a medical examination every two years unless they have a condition that would require more frequent tests, according to the Secretary of State's Office.

Accident recalled

Barron was sitting in the second row when Hamlin lost consciousness and slumped over the steering wheel.

Barron said the accident happened fast and left little time to react.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Police work at the scene of the bus crash in Georgetown, Mass., on Tuesday that injured the bus driver and seven players and two coaches from the University of Maine women's basketball team.

The Associated Press


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