A National Transportation Safety Board official who was involved in the 2016 Lockhart balloon crash investigation will oversee the investigation into a charter bus crash that killed four people in Biloxi, Miss. on Tuesday.
State Rep. John Cyrier told KVUE/Austin American-Statesman’s Tony Plohetski that Robert Sumwalt has promised a thorough investigation into the crash. Two of the four killed were identified Tuesday evening as Ken and Peggy Hoffman, both former Lockhart ISD administrators. Lockhart ISD Superintendent Susan Bohn released the following statement on their deaths:
Ken and Peggy served us as colleagues, teachers, and leaders in our community. We feel their loss deeply across the district, remembering the mark that they made upon us and upon a generation of children in our community.
The Hoffmans had a number of family members who currently work in LISD, and our thoughts and prayers are with them especially at this time. To those of you who had the opportunity to know, learn from, and love the Hoffmans, please accept my sincerest condolences on behalf of your LISD family.Please join me in supporting each other as we grieve, and praying for Ken and Peggy’s family. The district will share information about arrangements when it becomes available.
Biloxi Police Chief John Miller said the crash happened at a railroad crossing on Main Street shortly after 2 p.m. Tuesday. The Bastrop Senior Center confirmed to KVUE that 27 members and 24 other people were on board the bus for a seven-day trip. The bus got stuck at the crossing, and the center said the driver opened the doors for people to get out.
According to Julia Clark with American Medical Response in Harrison County, Miss., three people were initially killed and 10 others were in critical condition. Another 10 were listed as serious with 15 said to be 'walking wounded,' and the rest did not need medical attention. One of those critically injured died at a hospital around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. The fourth victim was a woman, bringing the number of deaths to two men and two women, according to KVUE's sister station WLOX.
Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape said Tuesday evening they have identified 33 passengers on the bus through phone calls but are not releasing any identities, including those of the deceased, at this time.
The Bastrop Senior Center said that people seeking information on loved ones can call the center at 512-303-0072 or Bastrop police at 512-332-8643.
Ameet Patel, Senior Vice President of Regional Operations for Penn National Gaming, told WLOX that the bus was traveling from Hollywood in Bay St. Louis to Boomtown in Biloxi.
It is with deep regret and sympathy that we can confirm the private charter bus that collided with a train this afternoon in Biloxi was transporting patrons from our Hollywood Gulf Coast Casino in Bay St. Louis to our Boomtown Biloxi Casino approximately 45 miles away. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who tragically lost their lives and all those affected by this accident. As this is an ongoing law enforcement matter, we are withholding any further comment and are referring all calls to the Biloxi Police Department, with whom we are cooperating fully on their investigation.
CSX, who operates the train, issued the following statement on the crash:
CSX personnel are working with first responders at a collision of a freight train and passenger bus in Biloxi, Miss. The collision this afternoon occurred at the Main Street crossing. The eastbound mixed freight train, traveling from New Orleans to Mobile, Ala., had three locomotives and 52 cars – 27 loaded cars and 25 empty cars. The crossing has flashing lights and crossing gates. Authorities in Biloxi report four fatalities and many injuries, and our thoughts are with all involved. The train crew was not injured. CSX is cooperating fully with investigators.
The charter bus was operated by ECHO Transportation, would not comment to KVUE on the crash, saying only they are "mobilizing an investigation" at the moment. The KVUE Defenders looked at federal inspection records for ECHO, and learned the company has had six crashes in the last two years before Tuesday, only one resulting in an injury. The bus that was struck by the train was inspected three times in the last year and had zero violations.
Gov. Greg Abbott issued the following statement on the Biloxi crash:
“Cecilia and I are deeply saddened by the loss of life in this tragic accident, and we extend our prayers to the families who lost loved ones and to all those affected by this tragedy.”
Miss. Gov. Phil Bryant issued the following statement on the crash:
“I have been briefed by law enforcement and emergency management officials and am thankful for the quick action and great work by first responders. Please join me and Deborah in praying for the injured and the families of the lost.
WLOX reported in January that a Pepsi truck had also become stuck on the track and was struck by a train. No injuries were reported in that crash.
VIDEO: Bastrop Senior Center and county authorities brief on crash:
This is a breaking story, and will be updated as more information becomes available.