Six people were killed and 10 more injured Tuesday morning when a school bus hit a car, then veered into oncoming traffic and ripped through the side of a Maryland Transit Administration bus in Southwest Baltimore, police said.
The school bus driver and five people on the MTA bus died in the crash in the 3800 block of Frederick Avenue in Irvington, officials said. No students were on the school bus during the crash.
The yellow school bus — headed east on Frederick before 7 a.m. — rear-ended a gray Ford Mustang at Monastery Avenue, struck a cement pillar at the entrance to Loudon Park Cemetery, then continued another block down the road before smashing through the driver’s side front of the MTA bus, police said. The two buses remained jack-knifed into each other hours later. A bystander said the force of the collision “shook the ground.”
“It literally looks like a bomb exploded in the bus, and it’s catastrophic damage,” police spokesman T.J. Smith said.
An aide on the school bus, eight people on the MTA bus and the driver of the Mustang were injured, Smith said. Their injuries ranged from minor to critical, he said.
Five patients were being treated the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center as of 11:30 a.m. One person was in critical condition, another was in serious condition and three were stable, said Dr. Deborah M. Stein, MD, MPH, Chief of Trauma and Director Neurotrauma Critical Care Shock Trauma.
One patient is an adult male of unknown age, and four female patients, ages from mid-20s to 40s, Stein said. The injuries are typical for motor vehicle crashes, she said.
At least two patients will remain at the hospital, one will stay for observation, one will stay for a short period, and one will likely be discharged, Stein said.
“Given the nature of the incident, we certainly had all hands on deck,” she said.
Smith said he didn’t know whether speed was a factor in the crash, but he noted that police found no indication that the school bus had been braking before the collision.
“There aren’t any skid marks, so something catastrophic took place,” he said.
Police hope to ask the school bus aide what happened just prior to the crash, Smith said.
The wrecked Mustang remained at the scene hours later, with a front wheel off its axis and the back half of the car fully collapsed from the impact.
Many Baltimore students rely on MTA buses to get to school, but officials could not immediately say how many students regularly ride the No. 10 bus.
That bus route connects Catonsville in Western Baltimore County through downtown Baltimore and Fells Point to Turner Station in Dundalk in Eastern Baltimore County.
The crash rocked the cemetery, Superintendent Matt Wagster said.
“It sounded like a train wreck,” he said. “It was loud and it shook the ground.”
The cause of the crash is under investigation, and there is no indication of foul play, Smith said.
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis described the scene as “complicated” and said it was “going to take a lot of resources to get to the bottom of what happened.” He said emergency officials would remain on the scene throughout the day.
“It’s important to keep the families in mind and the folks who lost their lives,” Davis said.
Keith Scroggins, chief operating officer of Baltimore City Public Schools, said the school bus driver worked for Baltimore-based AA Affordable Transportation, and was on his way to pick up his first student, en route to Dallas F. Nicholas Sr. Elementary School in Barclay.
AA Affordable Transportation, one of seven bus companies under contract with the school system, provides curb-to-curb services for students with special needs and homeless students.
The bus in the crash Tuesday morning takes 18 students to Dallas F. Nicholas and Roots and Branches Charter School. Those students will be transported by a City Schools-owned bus beginning Wednesday, according to the city school system.
AA Affordable owner Mark Williams said the driver in Tuesday’s crash was one of a “handful” who are contracted by city schools. The driver had a good driving record, Williams said. He declined to answer further questions, saying the company and its drivers were grieving.
Baltimore Fire Chief Niles Ford said the scene was unlike anything his first responders had ever seen. “There are still portions of the bus that our people have not been able to fully access,” he said.
Smith said the school bus driver and the aide were the only two people on the school bus at the time of the crash. Thirteen people are believed to have been on the MTA bus, he said.
“It is a pretty horrific scene,” he said.
Smith said he did not know when the road would be reopened to traffic. He asked for patience as first responders do their “due diligence for the families of the victims.” Drivers were asked to take alternate routes.
Kevin Travers, 55, a maintenance worker at St. Joseph’s Monastery nearby, had walked past the scene just before the crash. He went inside the maintenance building at the intersection of Frederick Avenue and South Morley Street about 6:15 a.m., and then heard the police helicopter overhead about 15 minutes later.
“It happened real fast,” Travers said.
Mary Schruefer, 60, an administrator at Mountain Manor Treatment Center, a drug addition counseling facility at the monastery, peered down at the crash scene from a side road.
“That’s horrible,” she said. “It just opened up the side of the bus.”
The scene is about two blocks from Mount St. Joseph High School. The school already was scheduled to open an hour late Tuesday for All Saints Day. The opening was not delayed further, school officials said.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake offered her condolences to the victims and their families, and she praised the first responders assisting in the emergency.
“Please continue to pray for the many lives impacted by today’s events,” the mayor said in a statement.
City Councilwoman Helen Holton, who represents the area, said she was waiting for more information.
“I’m just devastated — period,” the longtime councilwoman said. “The fact that a school bus and MTA bus were involved, it is just tragic, horrific.