10 dead, 5 injured in West Texas prison bus crash

January 15th, 2015 by Staff

Authorities say road conditions was a big factor in Wednesday's fatal prison bus crash.

(WFAA.COM) PENWELL, Texas – Eight inmates and two corrections officers died Wednesday when a prison bus skidded off an icy West Texas highway, slid down an embankment and collided with a passing freight train, authorities said.

Justice department spokesman Jason Clark says the bus was carrying 12 prisoners and three corrections officers. Clark says the bus was taking the inmates from a prison in Abilene to another in El Paso.

Ector County Sheriff Mark Donaldson said the dead included eight prisoners and two prison officers, the Odessa-American reports. Donaldson said the bus went off an icy bridge, fell into the middle of the moving train.

An earlier accident on the Interstate 20 overpass may have contributed to the prison bus losing control, Donaldson said.
The white bus came to rest on its side, crumpled with heavy damage to its top and undercarriage.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice identified the deceased correctional officers as:

Christopher Davis, 53
Eligio Garcia, 45

A third correctional officer, 38-year-old Jason Self, was hospitalized in Lubbock in critical condition.

The dead prisoners were identified as:

Byron Wilson, 34
Tyler Townsend, 29
Jesus Reyna, 44
Kaleb Wise, 22
Adolfo Ruiz, 32
Michael Stewart, 25
Angel Vasquez, 31
Jeremiah Rodriguez, 35

Four other prisoners were taken to Medical Center Hospital in Odessa for treatment of critical or serious injuries.

“It’s with a heavy heart that we mourn the loss of those killed and injured this morning in a tragic accident,” said Brad Livingston, executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. “Their loved ones will be in our thoughts and prayers.”

Wreckage of TDC bus crashed on train tracks near Penwell. OA confirmed 10 fatalities.
11:43 AM – 14 Jan 2015

Jason Clark, a Department of Criminal Justice spokesman, said the bus was new and had been placed in service only this past summer.

The prisoners were handcuffed together in pairs, but there were no leg restraints, said Jason Heaton, a Department of Criminal Justice agency director for the region. Only the driver’s seat had a seat belt, he said. The school bus-like vehicle also does not have seat belts on the bench-type seats where the prisoners were seated.

The Union Pacific freight train with four locomotives and 58 cars came to a stop soon after. None of the cars derailed, but two containers at the rear of the train were damaged when the bus struck them, said Mark Davis, a railroad spokesman.

The containers were carrying hundreds of parcels and packages, many of which were strewn along the tracks.

Two Union Pacific employees were not injured.

The train, which was traveling from the Los Angeles area to Marion, Arkansas, remained stopped at the accident site several hours after the accident, Davis said.

“We’ll send crews to inspect the train, inspect the track,” he said.

Lieutenant Governor-elect Dan Patrick issued a statement about the accident Wednesday morning.

“I am deeply saddened by the news that two correctional guards died, along with eight inmates, in connection with a tragic accident in West Texas on Interstate 20 early this morning. I extend my sincere sympathies to the families of the correctional officers involved,” Patrick said. “[...] I also pray for a speedy recovery of a third correctional staff member and four offenders who were transported with injuries.”

State Rep. Tan Parker notified the Texas House of the accident and led a moment of silence.

The National Transportation Safety Board will send a team to investigate the accident.

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