GEORGETOWN, Mass. — A Cyr Bus Line motorcoach transporting the University of Maine women’s basketball team to Boston for a Wednesday night game was involved in an accident Tuesday night that injured the driver and left head coach Richard Barron with facial lacerations.
No other significant injuries to the team have been reported, but the unidentified driver — who apparently was suddenly stricken with some kind of medical condition — had to be transported by a LifeFlight helicopter to Boston Medical Center.
The bus shot left across the center line of I-95 South near Georgetown, off the southbound lane and over the median, onto and across I-95 North, and into some woods off the shoulder at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to Massachusetts State Police.
“Absolutely a miracle. This time of night, 8:30 in the evening, there’s a lot of traffic here on [Interstate] 95. How that bus missed everybody is just amazing,” Georgetown Fire Chief Albert Beardsley told a New England Cable News reporter from the scene of the accident.
A John T. Cyr & Sons Bus employee at the main depot in Old Town said around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday he was just getting preliminary details about the crash and did not know who the bus driver was, nor his condition.
Barron had to be treated for cuts on his face after being thrown into the front stairway entrance to the bus.
“Richard said the driver had slumped over the wheel and appeared to have passed out,” said UMaine Athletic Director Steve Abbott. “So he [Barron] got up and tried to get to the wheel, but as he approached the driver, the bus hit the median and sent him flying into the door well area. He said the bus kept on cruising across the median and all the lanes of the northbound side.”
The bus contained a device that records footage and information about the bus, commonly known as a black box, according to the Boston Globe. That footage will be reviewed Wednesday, but a state police trooper told the paper there’s no indication drugs or alcohol were involved.
“It’s a terrible accident, but we’re just incredibly thankful that none of the other passengers were more seriously hurt,” said Abbott. “I can’t believe the bus was able to go that far without having another collision. We’re very thankful.”
Three team members were initially transported to an area hospital for observation — guard Ashleigh Roberts, who has recently returned to action following a concussion, forward Corinne Wellington, who is out for the season with an injury, and former player Samantha Wheeler, the team’s director of basketball operations, according to UMaine spokeswoman Margaret Nagle.
Both Abbott and Massachusetts State Police confirmed that — in all — 22 players were taken to two area hospitals— Merrimack Valley Hospital in Haverhill, Mass., and Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport, Mass. — to be treated and evaluated. All 22 were expected to be released Tuesday night.
“All the injuries to other people are minor,” Abbott said. “It’s mostly cuts and bruises after a lot of the players were jostled around.”
Another accident occurred in connection with the bus crash, as a Massachusetts State Police cruiser responding to the accident was hit by another car. No injuries resulted from that crash, according to police.
Assistant coach and former UMaine player Amy Vachon Tweeted the following message late Tuesday night:
“Thank you everyone for your thoughts and prayers.. I’ve heard from so many I can’t respond to all.. but we are good.. def a miracle..”
Thomas Fay, an attorney at Boye, Shaughnessy & Campo in Boston and the counsel for Cyr Bus Lines, issued the following statement late Tuesday night:
“Tuesday night, February 26, 2013, at approximately 8:30 p.m., a charter motor coach belonging to our company Cyr Bus Lines of Old Town, Maine, had an accident while going southbound on Interstate 95 near Georgetown, Mass. The bus was carrying coaches, players and basketball staff with the University of Maine women’s basketball team. Cyr Bus Lines is fully cooperating with local and state officials who are investigating the cause of this accident.”
Wednesday’s scheduled 7 p.m. game against Boston University in Boston will not be played, Abbott said.
“They’re going to stay at an area hotel tonight and then Cyr is sending a bus down to collect the players and coaches and bring them back,” he explained on Tuesday. “We’re not going to play tomorrow. I don’t know if it will be rescheduled. I would be surprised if it was, since the game won’t have any bearing on the current [America East conference] standings.”
Maine is 4-23 overall and 3-11 in America East while BU is 23-5 and 13-2, respectively, but BU is not eligible for the upcoming league playoffs because it is joining the Patriot League for the 2013-14 academic year.
Maine will conclude its regular season when it hosts New Hampshire at noon Saturday at Alfond Arena in Orono.