Arkansas State Police and Bus Company Start Investigation

Image courtesy WMC-TV
Image courtesy WMC-TV

FORREST CITY, Ark. (AP) - Three people are dead from a crash in which a passenger bus crossed the median on Interstate 40 near Forrest City and crashed with a tractor-trailer and a pickup truck.

Officials say the crash occurred at about 10 p.m. Sunday in foggy and misty conditions. State police say the westbound bus veered across the median into the eastbound lanes. The Tornado Bus Co. bus first struck the pickup, then collided with the 18-wheeler.

The National Weather Service said visibility at the time of the crash was three miles.

State police are still trying to get a total on the number injured. Forty-seven people, including the driver, were aboard the bus. At least 15 people were admitted to hospitals in Arkansas and Tennessee.

State police identified 2 of the three people killed in the crash -- pickup driver 40-year-old Danny Okurily of Hot Springs and 58-year-old bus passenger Raul Lopez of West Chicago, Illinois. Police were not releasing the name of a third person killed in the crash, pending notification of the family.

Bus driver Felix Tapia of Brownsville, Texas, and tractor-trailer driver David Rice of Mars Hill, North Carolina, suffered minor injuries.

Twenty-one people were taken to Crittenden Memorial Hospital and five were admitted. The five were in satisfactory condition today.

Others were taken to hospitals in Memphis, Tennessee. Three children were admitted to Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center. The hospital would not give their conditions. Seven people were admitted to Regional Medical Center. One was listed as critical; the six others were in serious condition.


FORREST CITY, AR - Three people are dead after a bus crash near Forrest City last night.

State police say the Tornado Bus Company bus crossed the Interstate-40 median at about 10 p.m. and collided with a tractor-trailer and a pick-up truck.  The bus was bound from Chicago to Dallas and veered from the westbound side into oncoming traffic.

State police say pickup driver 40-year-old Danny Okurily of Hot Springs was killed, as were two bus passengers.  Identities of the dead passengers have not been released.  Bus driver Felix Tapia of Brownsville, Texas, and tractor-trailer driver David Rice of Mars Hill, North Carolina, suffered minor injuries.

State police haven't said how many others were injured but a Tornado Bus manifest listed 44 passengers and a driver aboard the bus.  The crash is under investigation.

Shortly after the crash, a state police dispatcher said about a dozen victims needed to be extricated from the bus.  Witnesses said children were among the passengers.

The injured were taken to hospitals in Forrest City, West Memphis and Memphis.

Traffic was halted for a time in both directions as emergency crews worked at the scene.  Motorists were re-routed onto U.S. 70.  However, both lanes of I-40 were re-opened to traffic at approximately 6:45 this morning.

In 2004, a bus crash in nearby Crittenden County claimed 15 lives.  In that crash, a Chicago tour bus heading into a Mississippi casino left Interstate-55 near Marion flipped over.  Federal investigators said the bus, which carried 30 people, was in poor condition and shouldn't have been in service.

(The Associated Press and Region 8 News Reporter Will Carter contributed to this report.)

November 26, 2007--Posted at 5:10 a.m. CST

FORREST CITY, AR--Arkansas State Police and firefighters from several districts are at mile marker 252 on Interstate 40, where police say a charter bus, an 18-wheeler, and a pickup truck crashed Sunday evening.

Police say there are at least three dead and more than 40 people injured.

According to police, the Tornado Bus Line charter crossed the median heading westbound and crashed into an oncoming semi-truck.

Traffic is being rerouted onto Highway 70.

Region 8 News has a crew at the scene of the crash and will have the latest updates on Good Morning Region 8 and throughout the day.