US

Crash Involving Colorado Bus Carrying Church Group Kills 2, Leaves 13 Injured

By Victor Westerkamp

At least two members of a church group from Albuquerque have died after their charter bus struck a bridge support and veered off into a ditch on the Colorado Interstate 25 on June 23, officials said.

Fifteen passengers, the driver included, five adults and 10 children, were associated with a Catholic church group called the Aquinas Newman Center in Albuquerque and were on their way back after having attended the Steubenville Youth Conference in Denver.

The accident happened on the southbound lanes of Interstate 25, about 10 miles north of Pueblo, 45 minutes south of Colorado Springs at approximately 2:30 p.m.

At present, the identity of only one fatality has been confirmed. The 22-year-old-driver was launched from his seat and didn’t survive the crash, The Pueblo Chieftain reported.

All of the other 13 passengers were injured, seven of them sustained minor injuries, while six were in critical condition, Colorado State Patrol officials reported. At this moment it is unknown who, exactly, were involved and what the cause of the accident was. A press conference is to be announced where the identities of the victims will be released by the Pueblo County Coroner after family members and relatives of the deceased have been informed.

“We do express our condolences out to the families and the victims that are involved in this,” said Sgt. Blake White, Colorado State Patrol spokesperson.

Authorities could not yet determine the cause of the accident as the investigation was still ongoing on Sunday evening. Patrol Cpl. Ivan Alvarado said the driver might have had an unspecified medical condition that may have contributed to the crash.

When emergency responders arrived at the scene, some victims had already been removed from the wreck, but five people had to be freed by the fire brigade from their perilous situation, Pueblo West Fire Chief Brian Caserta said.

At a press conference on Sunday, it was said that in total 14 ambulances and fire trucks from 14 different agencies were engaged in the rescue operation.

Only one lane of the southbound I-25 was accessible during the emergency work while personnel worked at the scene till 6:30 p.m. Traffic was jammed for several hours in both directions.

Emergency crews respond to a bus crash
Emergency crews respond to a bus crash on southbound Interstate 25 in Pueblo County, Colo., on June 23, 2019. (Zach Hillstrom/The Pueblo Chieftain via AP)

One victim was sent to Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs, six victims were transported by ambulance to St. Mary Corwin Medical Center, and six others were transported to Parkview Medical Center.

The Archdiocese of Denver issued a statement on Facebook, saying: “Please pray tonight for a Catholic group from New Mexico who were involved in a tragic bus accident this afternoon in Pueblo … We send our prayers and deepest condolences to the families of those who were killed, and our prayers for healing and comfort for those who were injured.”

One Facebook user, Ashley Blondo, responded: “I met some of those kids this past weekend, and they had so much love in their hearts. My prayers and love goes out to them. It’s so crazy that they went to a conference about God and are now on their way to meeting Him.”