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Two Killed, 59 Hurt in Crash of Bus With U.S. Students

July 20, 1990

OXFORD, England (AP) _ A double-decker bus carrying gifted teen-age students from the United States overturned on a highway outside Oxford on Thursday, killing two and injuring all 59 other people aboard, police said.

Some were thrown from windows, some crawled out of the bus, some were later pulled free and at least three were trapped inside for an hour, authorities said. Four people were seriously hurt.

″It was a scene of utter chaos and mayhem,″ said ambulance superintendent Robin Finlayson. ″There were girls and boys trapped in the coach and others strewn up the bank. They were crying, bawling and bloody. ... Many had crush injuries.″

Police identified the dead students as 18-year-old Autumn Dubose of Lilburn, Ga., and Lawrence Levine, 16, of Chappaqua, N.Y.

The 61 people on the bus included 47 Americans, 5 Britons, 2 Japanese and one each from Canada, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Italy, and Mexico, police said. The nationality of one student was not known.

The bus was taking students and staff to an arts festival when the vehicle went out of control as it turned off the A40 highway near Wheatley, six miles east of Oxford, said Thames Valley Police Chief Inspector John Wheeler.

Most of the Americans were gifted students from all over the United States who were taking a four-week summer school course at Oxford University’s Magdalen College organized by the Oxford Advanced Studies Program in New York, U.S. Coordinator Paul Beresford-Hill said. They ranged in age from 16 to 20.

Max Koltuv, a 16-year-old New Yorker who suffered several broken bones in his hand, said he and three others were sitting in the front row on the top deck of the bus.

″I knew it was going too fast when it began to turn off the road. Suddenly, it began to tip and it rolled right over onto the embankment. The four of us were thrown through the front window and out into the grass, clear of the bus,″ he said.

″I blacked out but came around about 30 seconds later and all the people left on the bus were shouting and were hysterical,″ he said.

Chief Inspector Laurie Fray said 59 people were injured, four seriously.

A spokesman at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, where the most seriously injured were taken, said most of the 35 people admitted had back and neck injuries ″of varying severity.″

A few suffered head injuries and others friction burns and lacerations but ″very few″ were still critical, said the spokesman, speaking on condition he was not identified.

The 24 less seriously injured were taken to Wycombe General Hospital in nearby High Wycombe. A spokesman said most suffered cuts and bruises and were discharged within a few hours.

David Watson of the Bus and Coach Council, speaking for the bus owner, Bee Line, said the vehicle overturned on its right side as it turned left off the narrow highway for Waterperry House, near Wheatley. The arts festival was being held at Wheatley.

He identified the driver as Gan Sharma, 40, of Reading, who had worked for the company for 14 years. The accident happened at 2:30 p.m. on a hot, sunny day.

Marilyn Whiteman, a cook at an Oxfordshire nursing home, said the bus had passed her a mile before the crash.

″He was traveling at between 80 and 85 mph, and the bus was swaying all over the place,″ she said.

Police said the driver was slightly hurt and had been discharged from High Wycombe Hospital. He will be questioned soon, a police spokesman said.

Authorities had earlier said a truck was involved in the bus crash. They later said that was a false report.

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