Driver of bus carrying UMaine women’s basketball team listed in good condition

Posted Feb. 28, 2013, at 12:44 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 28, 2013, at 6:40 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The driver of the Cyr Bus Lines motor coach that crashe d Tuesday night while taking members of the University of Maine women’s basketball team to a game in Massachusetts remained hospitalized in Boston on Thursday.

Jeff Hamlin, 55, of Charleston was listed in good condition Thursday evening, according to a spokeswoman for Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Hamlin had been listed in fair condition earlier in the day.

Hamlin was seriously injured in the accident, according to Massachusetts State Police. He was airlifted to Boston Medical Center and then taken to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, also in Boston. Several of the student-athletes and a coach suffered minor injuries.

According to police, Hamlin may have suffered a medical condition that caused him to lose consciousness behind the wheel. The bus then careened from the southbound side of Interstate 95, across the median and crashed into trees on the northbound side in Georgetown, Mass.

The crash, which did not involve other vehicles, remains under investigation by the Massachusetts State Police, who already have said that it is unlikely that charges will be filed.

Taking part in the investigation are Troop A of the Massachusetts State Police, the State Police Collision Reconstruction and Analysis Section, the State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Section and the State Police Crime Scene Services Section, which was tapped to help gather evidence, according to a series of email updates issued by the Massachusetts State Police’s media unit.

At the time of the crash, the Black Bears were on their way to Boston for Wednesday’s scheduled America East game against Boston University, which was postponed.

It was not yet clear Thursday what caused Hamlin to lose consciousness Tuesday night.

Rick Soules, general manager for Cyr Bus Lines, said that Hamlin had been working for the Old Town-based company for a couple of months.

“He was new to us but he was an experienced driver,” Soules said Thursday.

Soules said that Hamlin recently transferred his New York State commercial license to the state of Maine and had applied to drive both motor coaches and school buses.

Because of that, Hamlin was required to pass two physicals, Soules said. “So there was no reason to think anything [was wrong physically],” he said.

Soules also said that Hamlin underwent background checks — including a check of his driving records — before he was hired by Cyr Bus and that he came to the company with good recommendations from his former employer in New York. Soules declined to identify the former employer.

“He went through all the state and federal qualifications and a driving record check,” Soules said shortly before noon Thursday, just before he left for Boston to visit Hamlin and Hamlin’s family members at the hospital.

Cyr Bus safety coordinator Rick Vaillancourt said Thursday afternoon that company officials were told that Hamlin’s burns were from exposure to coolant from the bus’s heating system but said that had not yet been confirmed.

Neither Soules nor Vaillancourt could recall any recent Cyr Bus accidents that resulted in injury.

“We’ve been very fortunate,” Vaillancourt said. “We’ve done really, really well. We’ve got some good, experienced people. They care a lot about the passengers and the buses.”

The federal database showed that the 280 drivers employed by Cyr Bus had been involved in no accidents for the previous 24 months.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s online database, Cyr Bus had a satisfactory rating and no serious safety violations.

Cyr Bus was founded 101 years ago, according to its website. Today, the company has a fleet of more than 300 vehicles, including 22 motor coaches and 250 school buses.

Cyr Bus provides school bus service to 13 school districts serving 25 communities and charter services to a long list of customers, including the University of Maine, Husson University and Colby College.

Cyr buses travel about 3 million miles a year throughout Maine, much of the United States and Canada. In 2012, the company’s buses traveled 3.5 million miles.

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