PHOENIX (AP) – Four Mexican residents remained hospitalized Wednesday after the charter bus they were on was struck by a pickup truck going the wrong way on a rural Arizona interstate, authorities said.
The pickup’s 78-year-old driver was killed and nine passengers aboard the charter bus owned by TBC Connexion were injured in Tuesday afternoon’s accident on Interstate 10 in Casa Grande, about 50 miles south of Phoenix.
Officials with the Mexican Consulate in Phoenix said the four still hospitalized were family-related from Sinaloa. They didn’t immediately release their names or provide updates on their conditions or injuries Wednesday.
The bus was headed from Mexico to Phoenix with 15 passengers and a driver, who escaped injury.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety identified the bus driver as Leonardo Leyva, 46, of Nogales, Ariz.
A DPS spokesman said Leyva was conscious and walking around when authorities arrived. But they also said he was covered in blood and was originally thought to be one of the injured. The DPS said the blood on Leyva actually was from another passenger.
A call to a listed phone number for Leyva in Nogales wasn’t answered Wednesday afternoon and calls to TBC Conexion’s offices in Phoenix and Tucson seeking comment on the crash weren’t returned.
DPS officials identified the pickup driver as Francis Wilkens Gibson Jr. of Casa Grande. The truck burst into flames and Gibson was declared dead at the scene.
The cause of the crash remained under investigation and DPS officials said it still was unclear where Gibson got on the interstate.
DPS officials said that about two minutes before the 2:15 p.m. crash, they received two 911 calls about a driver on Interstate 10 _ the main route from Phoenix to Tucson _ travelling east in the westbound lanes.
“We were responding when the accident occurred,” DPS spokesman Bart Graves said.
DPS Capt. Brian Preston said investigators were working to determine whether drugs or alcohol were a factor in the crash.
The Casa Grande Dispatch reported that Gibson was a teacher at Evergreen Elementary School from 1968 until he retired in 1993.
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