GEORGETOWN — A bus carrying the UMaine Orono women’s basketball team, coaches and staff veered from the southbound side of Interstate 95 around 8:30 Tuesday night, crossed the median and crashed into a section of woods on the northbound side of the six-lane highway near exit 54 in Georgetown, state police reported.
The driver, who may have suffered some medical episode, was trapped in the bus with serious injuries and had to be extricated by firefighters. He was flown from the scene by MedFlight to Boston Medical Center with serious injuries.
A state police official said 22 people with minor injuries were transported to various hospitals in the region including Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport, Beverly Hospital in Beverly and Merrimack Valley Hospital in Haverhill for treatment and observation.
Coach Richard Barron reportedly suffered minor facial lacerations. Three team members were transported to an area hospital for observation — players Ashleigh Roberts and Corinne Wellington, and Samantha Wheeler, the team’s director of basketball operations.
The UMaine athletic director said he was told by the coach that the driver had some kind of medical incident and passed out while driving. He said the coach even tried grabbing the steering wheel at one point.
The accident scene was located between Tenney and Jewett streets, north of the Route 133 exit in Georgetown.
The bus crossed from the southbound side of Interstate 95, across the median and then over three lanes of northbound traffic before ending up in the woods. Officials at the scene reported that the bus never flipped over or struck another vehicle on its path across the highway.
The northbound side of the highway was closed to traffic to allow a MedFlight helicopter to land and transport the bus driver to Boston.
State police reported the bus line involved was Cyr and Sons, a commercial carrier out of Old Town, Maine. A man who answered the phone at the company’s office late last night said company officials were gathering information about the crash. As of press time, no official cause had been determined.
“We’re very thankful that this accident was not any worse than it was,” said Robert Dana, vice president for student affairs and dean of students at UMaine. “The thoughts of the entire University of Maine community are with the bus driver and the team as they contend with this very frightening event.”
Meanwhile, a state police cruiser, pulling off to the side of the highway just north of the bus crash, was hit from behind, slightly injuring the trooper who was driving.
More than an hour after the crash, numerous ambulances, firetrucks and emergency responders lined the highway as the bus remained lodged in the woods.
Access to the northbound side of Interstate 95 remained blocked to traffic at Route 133 in Georgetown. Vehicles on the stretch of highway prior to the accident were backed up to Route 133. Periodically, a few of those cars were allowed to travel through on the far right lane of the highway. By 11 p.m. Tuesday, the far left travel lanes of I-95 north were reopened to traffic.
At the Jewett Street overpass above Interstate 95, more than a dozen curiosity-seekers stopped to view the flashing light-filled scene off in the distance.
According to the University of Maine website, the women’s basketball team had a game against Boston University scheduled for Wednesday night.
Earlier this month, a bus crash in Boston injured 35 people, including high school students and chaperones, from Pennsylvania. The coach slammed into a 10-foot-high overpass on Feb. 2 while returning to the Philadelphia area from a trip to Harvard University.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.