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Woman on passenger bus killed during crash

By Camille M. Doty -
May 11, 2011 at 12:11 a.m.
Updated May 12, 2011 at 12:12 a.m.

Firefighters rescue injured passengers from a Valley Transit Greyhound bus after it struck a  pole while swerving  to avoid a pickup off of U.S. Highway 77 S near Exxon gas station, formerly known as Chubby's, on Wednesday night.

A woman on a passenger bus bound for McAllen was killed Wednesday night on U.S. Highway 77 South when it tried to avoid a pickup and crashed into a nearby light pole.

Larry Marceaux, 30, of Vinton, La., drove the blue pickup. The driver of the commercial bus was Guadalupe Ruiz, 57, of Harlingen.

"It happened so fast," said passenger Larry Sanchez. "Once the impact hit, it was total pandemonium." Sanchez was not hurt and refused to go to the hospital to be examined.

Isaias Velasco also said the accident happened quickly, "He (the bus driver) didn't have a chance to react."

Another passenger, Mike Trosclair, said the woman who died was seated near the door of the bus.

Trooper Gerald Bryant of the Texas Department of Public Safety identified the woman as Juanita Lopez-Perez, 53, of Matamoros, Mexico. She was traveling alone.

Bryant said the driver of the 24-passenger Valley Transit reportedly tried to avoid a Chevrolet pickup that was towing another vehicle. The bus then swerved and smashed into the metal light pole, Bryant said.

At least 13 people with various injuries were taken to the emergency rooms at Citizens Medical Center and DeTar Navarro Hospital in Victoria. The extent of the injuries and the identities of the other victims were not immediately available. At least five victims were taken to Citizens in a van at 10:27 p.m. and some of those were able to walk with apparent leg injuries. Eight victims from the bus crash were taken to DeTar.

All eight were in stable condition, said Judith Barefield, a hospital official said. She said the American Red Cross was setting up a shelter for the non-injured passengers of the bus at First United Methodist Church on Bridge Street.

The bus driver, Ruiz, said he was OK and was wearing a seat belt.

The Victoria Fire Department tried to get more critical passengers to the hospital by helicopter but because of the weather, they couldn't fly, according to Battalion Fire Chief Shannon Martin. He said some passengers with non-critical injuries were picked up by a Victoria County Sheriff's Office van.

The accident happened between 5 and 7 miles south of Victoria. The crash occurred about 9 p.m. as the pickup driver was turning north onto U.S. 77 from Fleming Prairie Road and reportedly did not see the bus, Bryant said. Traffic backed up in the southbound lanes for miles as rescue workers cared for the injured, many of whom were helped out of the bus through its emergency hatch in its roof.

Law enforcement diverted some traffic to U.S. 59 South. Among the volunteer fire departments at the scene were from Quail Creek and Raisin.



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