COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The wife of a bus driver involved in Tuesday’s deadly crash on Interstate 70 is sharing details on his actions in the aftermath, as well as his condition.
NBC4 obtained highway camera video through a records request to the Ohio Department of Transportation, which showed the moments after the five-vehicle pile-up on I-70. Visible flames erupted from the wreckage and a plume of smoke billowed upwards from the wreckage, Police, fire and medical crews gathered at the scene just before 9 a.m.
The crash involved a charter bus carrying 57 people, including Tuscarawas Valley High School band members, who were heading to a conference in Columbus. Six people from both the bus and an accompanying SUV died as a result.
The incident left bus driver Don Wagler injured and later hospitalized. However, his wife, Ellen Wagler, said that his first reaction after the crash was to immediately open the bus door for everyone else to escape. The highway camera video showed a line of people getting out of the bus on the left side of the wreck.
“With four broken bones in one leg, his main concern was the kids. They came first and he did a good job,” Wagler told sister station FOX 8 on Wednesday.
Ellen said Don remained in a Columbus hospital as of Wednesday. While he couldn’t get out of bed yet, he has progressed to sitting up and eating.
The crash claimed the lives of a teacher, two chaperones and three students: Dave Kennat, 56, of Navarre; Kristy Gaynor, 39, of Zoar; Shannon Wigfield, 45, of Bolivar; John W. Mosley, 18, of Mineral City; Jeffery D. Worrell, 18, of Bolivar, and Katelyn N. Owens, 15, of Mineral City. Federal investigators said two SUVs, a semi, the charter bus and another commercial vehicle all saw some form of damage from the collision as well.
An earlier crash may have played a role in the deadly pile-up, according to federal investigators. The National Transportation Safety Board brought multiple staff to Columbus to gather evidence from the crash, and Chairperson Jennifer Homendy said both a chaperone’s SUV and the bus had slowed down near the earlier accident scene. The semi ran into the back of the bus, according to Homendy, but she cautioned her office was still determining the sequence of events in the chain reaction.
Both the NTSB and the Ohio State Highway Patrol were investigating the crash as of Thursday.