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Driver dead in bus crash involving high schoolers

Dan Anderson/AP Photo

Officials said a bus carrying high school band students crashes in Alabama.

Posted: Mar. 13, 2018 12:56 PM

The driver of a bus carrying Texas high school band students has died and several people are injured after the bus crashed down a steep embankment off the side of an Alabama interstate, authorities said.

At 5:33 a.m., the tour bus, which was headed west on Interstate 10 toward Houston, careened near the highway median and ended up in a 50-foot ravine, Lt. Joe Piggott of the Alabama Highway Patrol said in a statement.

Baldwin County Sheriff Mack said emergency units were dispatched to evacuate and extricate the passengers. Some were carried out by police deputies, others were brought to the surface by firefighters who rappeled down the ravine.

About 48 passengers were on the bus at the time of crash, authorities said.

The crash was “in the dark of night, and we are down in a ravine next to a creek," Mack said, so "it was a large scale effort.”

Dewayne Benson, 15, was on one of two buses traveling home from Walt Disney World, according to his sister, Sydney Benson.

“He was asleep until the band director started screaming," Sydney Benson, 19, told ABC News.

She said her brother called the family from a hospital in Pensacola, Florida, and does not seem to be injured.

Injured passengers were taken to hospitals in Baldwin County as well as Sacred Hospital in Pensacola, Florida, Piggott said.

First Class Tours, which owns the bus, identified the deceased driver as one of its employees, Harry Caligone.

"Harry was a long-time driver for our company and we are deeply saddened for this loss. We offer our heartfelt condolences to his family," First Class Tours said in a statement.

"Our prayers are with the injured and their families at this time," the statement added. "We pledge our assistance in cooperating with local authorities in the investigation."

The students are from Channelview High School, said Mark Kramer, spokesman for the Channelview Independent School District.

"At this time, details are limited," Kramer said in a statement. "We are in contact with law enforcement in Alabama trying to obtain further information."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted, "Please join Cecilia & me in prayer and support for the Channelview students harmed by this bus crash."

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are headed to the accident.

ABC News' Rachel Katz and Gina Sunseri contributed to this report.

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