Editor’s note: This is a followup to a breaking news story, originally reported on Friday, December 3.
Over a dozen students were injured when a bus transporting University of Massachusetts students on a ski trip overturned and slid into an embankment on Interstate 91 in Putney, Vt. just before 4 p.m. on Friday.
Emergency responders rushed to the scene, and according to the Boston Globe, 17 of the 45 passengers onboard were brought to local hospitals.
Initial allegations that the driver of the bus had suffered a heart attack at the wheel surfaced on Friday. The Globe reported on Nov. 4 that the driver was airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H. “in critical but stable condition.”
According to the Globe, the driver was released from the hospital on Saturday, but neither the driver nor his doctors could confirm the cause of his loss of consciousness.
All 17 of the students were treated and released from Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and Springfield (Vt.) Hospital on Friday by around 9 p.m.
According to Martin Greenberg, a student injured in the accident, eight students, including Greenberg, were treated at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital for “partial injuries,” and four other students were treated in the hospital’s Emergency Room for “critical injuries.”
The bus was one of eight heading to Quebec City, Canada, for a weekend ski trip and, according to UMass Media Relations, the students on board were members of the UMass Ski & Board Club and this was an annual event of the organization.
At the time of the accident, students on the other buses traveling to Quebec were left confused and skeptical of the conflicting news reports’ tallies of the injured. At around 5 p.m., The Brattelboro Reformer, among other news organizations, was reporting the accident left six students in critical condition and 40 injured.
“All we know is that the accident was caused by a heart attack the bus driver had,” said Chris Martin, a UMass student and Ski & Board club member on one of the other two buses which stopped in Northern Vermont on Friday. “We’ve just been hearing that all UMass students are alright, and the news is exaggerating [the injuries], but we don’t know for sure.”
Martin said he believed most of the students were being treated for minor concussions and everyone would be continuing on the trip.
However, the University sent travel buses to retrieve the students involved in the crash, while students on the other seven buses also traveling from Amherst to Quebec continued on the trip.
According to student Julie Jyringi, who was not on the bus which crashed Friday but knows many of the students who were, members of the Ski & Board club were told doctors believe the driver suffered a heart attack before the crash. In addition, Jyringi said by email late Sunday night that students on the bus returned to campus early Saturday morning and were told by Health Services staff that if they were experiencing further health problems, they would be sent to the hospital.
“[Injured students] were told, however, to go to Health Services if there was any issues,” she said. “When they went to Health Services, they told them that if there is anything wrong they are making them go to the hospital.”
Jyringi reported that students suffered “a lot of bumps and bruises and cuts,” and said members of the club have told her the driver could not have fallen asleep at the wheel “because the bus was just so loud.”
As for the mental state of the students on board, Jyringi said many were shaken up but recovering.
“Being around them, they are definitely still in shock,” she said. “After hanging out with them, they are definitely recovering and its going to take a while.”
Jyringi said many students on the bus described a liminal, dream-like feeling during and immediately after the crash.
“They commented on how they are happy to be with people who experienced what they experienced and also how they feel like it’s been forever since the accident,” she said. “They said how everything seems like it was just a dream; like it didn’t really happen and they are going to wake up soon.”
Students in Amherst preparing for finals were stunned by the news, and many spent much of the weekend trying to contact friends on the trip.
“It’s scary to see students put in danger,” said Billy Anderson, a senior psychology major.
“I’ve been searching on Google and looking at my friends on Facebook that I know ski and snowboard to see if they have any information on who is OK on the trip,” said resident assistant and psychology major Alexandra Booth on Friday. “I’m very worried about the students on board. I just hope that everyone is getting the medical attention they need.”
“I’m in shock. Those are the kinds of things you see on the news and you never think it’s going to hit close to home. It’s sad to hear that something like that happened to the university I attend,” said senior economics major Chris Venne on Friday. “I just hope everyone is alright.”
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