CLIMAX, Mich. (WOOD) - Twenty-two people were injured, one critically, after a semi-truck and a Greyhound bus collided on I-94 late Thursday morning.
The wreck happened around 10:30 a.m. in the westbound lanes near Exit 88 to 40th Street in Climax. Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller told 24 Hour News 8 at the scene that the bus rear-ended the semi-truck and became impaled on the trailer.
"The truck driver was able to guide the accident to the edge of the road, being that the two vehicles were connected," Fuller said.
Police later identified the truck driver as 54-year-old David Diebold from Portage.
Thirty-six passengers on the bus were on their way from Toronto to Chicago when the crash happened. Twenty-two were hurt. Nine of those were hospitalized in Kalamazoo -- five at Borgess Medical Center and four at Bronson Methodist Hospital. Seven were released by the evening.
One passenger sitting toward the front of the bus was originally listed in critical condition. Cecillia Cheng, 65, from Darien, Ill. was upgraded to serious condition Friday morning, a hospital official told 24 Hour News 8.
Deangelo Langford of Detroit said while many on the bus were napping, he was texting when the bus hit the back of the semi-truck.
"My head hit the seat and I was startled. I jumped up and I saw the bus shifting towards the right, toward the (guard)rail," Langford said.
He said he ran to the front of the bus while it was still skidding on the highway and hooked to the back of the moving semi. Glass was everywhere, he said. The bus driver was pinned in.
"His hands weren't on the wheel but he looked up at me," he said. "I yelled and said, 'Hit the breaks,' and we stopped."
Many passengers said they had no idea what was happening when they awoke to the wreck.
"I was woken up by my head being rammed into the seat in front of me. My head started bleeding and a lot of people were screaming around me," passenger Jessica Johnson said.
"I was sleeping, finally getting some rest, but unfortunately I woke up with my face in the seat in front of me and bunch of noise going on," passenger Robert Shannon of Detroit said.
He was headed to Chicago for a TV commercial audition.
"There's a lot going on and it's going in slow motion, and I hear noises like air. I don't know if we were being dragged. It's a scene. It's a sequence going on. Not a dream sequence, but a nightmare sequence," he recalled.
He hurt his shoulder, but the injury was minor.
Passengers said most of those who were injured had been sitting toward the front of the bus.
"I woke up just saw glass shattering everywhere all over me," Marissa Desimone of Toronto said.
Desemone and some friends were going to the Lollapalooza concert that starts Friday in Chicago. She was sitting directly behind the bus driver. Her forehead was visibly swollen from where she said her head slammed into the glass in front of her.
Desimone said the woman next to her was thrown from her seat. She believes that woman may have been the most seriously hurt passenger.
Passengers said chaos quickly turned to calm as they started to help one another and waited for first responders to arrive.
"Once it happened, everybody came together. We all looked after each other, looking around just to see if anybody needed any attention," passenger Tom Serafini said.
Passengers praised firefighters and other emergency responders for the quick response and help. The impact smashed the bus door, so firefighters had to pull passengers out of the windows.
The scene left even veteran emergency responders, like Sheriff Fuller, shaking their heads.
"When you see the front end of a bus impaled on the back of a semi trailer, you're not confident that at the end of the day everybody's going to walk away from that incident," Fuller said as he looked at the wreck. "Right now...it really appears this is the case."
The bus driver was trapped inside the vehicle and it took some time for rescue crews to extricate him. Thomas L. Jackson, 64, from Chicago was not seriously injured.
"We had a doctor on scene almost the entire incident that was monitoring the vitals and the patient's condition to the point where doctors now tell me once we got him out they did an assessment, and on the scene it looks like he's going to be fine," said Fuller.
The westbound lanes of the highway were closed for three hours between Columbia Avenue (Exit 92) in Battle Creek to 40th Street.
"This accident very well could have had something to do with the ramp. The semi-truck might have been getting on the highway. We're investigating that further," Fuller said.
It took nearly five hours for passengers, who were taken to the transportation center in downtown Kalamazoo, to be loaded onto another bus headed to Chicago, which was scheduled to arrive there around 6:30 p.m. ET.
"They have not taken care of me. I'm just saying. They have not done certain things that I feel could be done," Shannon said.
They said they were not given food or water while they waited. And, they said, they got little
information from Greyhound.
"The buses themselves and getting everybody else back on their way isn't happening nearly as quickly as it should, for sure," passenger Johnson said.
The replacement bus broke down on I-94 outside of Kalamazoo around 5 p.m., 24 Hour News 8 was told. Greyhound said that bus lost power for 10 minutes, but was soon rolling again. Around 6 p.m., 24 Hour News 8 learned the bus had broken down again about 20 minutes outside of Chicago. It did eventually arrive there.
"There are a lot of things that could have been done better," Johnson said.
Greyhound did not reply Thursday night to 24 Hour News 8' requests for comment about the passengers' complaints.
24 Hour News 8's Tom Hillen contributed to this report.
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