Four people were killed after a charter bus was struck and dragged down the tracks by a freight train in Biloxi, Mississippi on March 7.
The incident caused a major response from emergency personnel, who were seen pulling victims out of the windows of the severely-damaged bus and using the Jaws of Life to free two people who were trapped. The Sun Herald reported that a car next to the bus was “used as a stepladder after the crash” and was also involved in the crash.
The Associated Press reported that the freight train dragged the bus about 300 feet down the tracks before coming to a stop. The bus was on a trip from a Texas senior center.
Here’s what you need to know about the horrific incident:
1. At Least 4 People Are Dead, 35 Are Injured
Past reports from officials in Biloxi saw the number of deaths vary from three to four, but the Sun Herald reported that at least four are dead as a result of the crash and 34 were injured.
CNN reported that 48 people were on board the bus at the time.
According to the Sun Herald’s report, four people declined medical treatment at the scene, three died at the scene and a fourth died later. Among those injured, 10 were reportedly listed in critical condition while another 10 were in serious condition.
2. The Bus Was Carrying Senior Citizens
Witnesses that were interviewed on the scene told WLOX-TV that the passengers were senior citizens. Typically, charter buses travel to Biloxi’s eight casinos for senior tours throughout the area.
The senior citizens were on the bus from Bastrop Senior Center, located in Bastrop, Texas. The center confirmed it was their bus at a press conference later in the day.
Barbara Adkins at the senior center said that 27 members of the center were on the bus and the rest of the victims were family members. Adkins said that the center typically uses the same bus company for its trips and some of them were in an accident on a bus trip previously.
A witness said he realized the bus “was stuck” on the tracks and he arrived to help the passengers exit just as the train hit it and drug it down the tracks. Another witness said the train was blowing its horn trying to warn the bus to get off the tracks, but the bus appeared unable to move. Passengers were reportedly fleeing the bus as the train hit it.
3. The Bus Was Traveling From Austin, Texas
The bus was traveling from Austin, Texas through Biloxi. It was heading north on Main Street when it attempted to cross over the train tracks, but was stuck and then hit by the oncoming train.
A witness — Craig Robinson — told the Sun Herald that the bus was stuck on the track for about five minutes before the train crashed into it. Merit Health hospital set up a triage area by the scene so it could treat the large amount of victims of the accident and at least one person was flown via helicopter to a hospital.
4. The Main Street Crossing Had a Train/Vehicle Crash Before
Fox 10 reported that the incident on March 7 wasn’t the first time a vehicle has been hit at the train crossing on Main Street in Biloxi.
A CSX Transportation train struck a Pepsi truck earlier this year in January, but the driver was able to escape minutes before the train arrived and made it out unharmed.
Similar to the bus incident, the driver of the Pepsi truck, Nicholas Contreras, also had his vehicle get stuck on the train tracks. His truck was pushed 50 yards down the track. CSX had inspected both the train and the tracks to ensure safety after Contreras’ incident and they were reopened three hours later.
At the time, Brian Dykes of the Biloxi Police Department told WLOX that drivers have to account for the size of their vehicle and grade of the train tracks before attempting to cross, especially at that crossing.
You simply got to pay attention to those crossing grade signs where it tells you not to cross if you got a larger vehicle. There are several times when we’ve had limousines stuck on these tracks at these types of grades.
5. The Freight Train Was Being Pulled by 3 Locomotives
The train involved in the incident is a CSX train that was being pulled by three locomotives. It was heading east when it struck the bus on the crossing in downtown Biloxi.
CSX released a statement after the crash that said the train was traveling to New Orleans from Mobile, Alabama and had 52 cars, consisting of 27 loaded cars and 25 empty cars.
The company noted that none of the crew members on the train were injured, and it’s cooperating with investigators.
The company is based out of Jacksonville, Florida and owns about 21,000 miles of track that serves most of the East Coast. In 2014, its stock value was just over $32 billion.