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02 Oct 2003 15:50
A tractor-trailer slammed into a tour bus carrying members of an international women’s group back to Chicago, killing eight and injuring several others.
At about 3pm on Wednesday (7pm GMT), traffic had slowed near a toll plaza on Interstate 90 about 80km west of Chicago when the truck plowed into the bus, ramming it into the back of another tractor-trailer, said state police trooper Doug Whitmore.
The bus was pushed through the trailer and on to the median. A pickup truck then hit that tractor-trailer, which hit another truck, Whitmore said.
Seven people were pronounced dead at the scene and 16 were taken to hospitals, police and fire officials said.
Their ages and names were not released.
The crash was still being investigated early on Thursday.
The bus was carrying 22 members of International Women Associates, who had visited a Japanese floral show in Rockford, said the group’s founder, Doe Thornburg.
The Chicago-based group offers support for women from overseas and in the diplomatic field. It has about 450 members from 60 countries. The nationalities of those killed or injured was not immediately known.
“We’re all in a state of heartbreak and shock,” Thornburg said.
Thomas Gartner, a state trooper, was one of the first police officers on the scene. Wreckage was strewn about the highway and median, bodies were on the ground and people hung out of the shattered windows of the tour bus, crying for help.
About 25 motorists were trying to remove the women from the mangled bus, but many of the injured were trapped inside, Gartner said.
“It was a very confusing scene, because you didn’t know who was involved and who wasn’t,” Gartner said. “We tried to get some of the people off the bus. It was hard because basically the bus had collapsed in on itself.”
Whitmore said the bus was operated by Leisure Pursuit Charters.
Kevin Conroy, the company president, called the accident a tragedy, but would not comment further.—Sapa-AP
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