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One dead, more than 40 injured in tour bus crash

September 18, 1997

MARSHALL, Ark. (AP) _ A tractor-trailer hydroplaned on a winding mountain road Wednesday and struck a tour bus bound for a country music Mecca, killing the bus driver and injuring more than 40 passengers.

The empty trailer sliced through the first three rows of seats on the bus’ left side as passengers dozed or watched the movie ``Space Jam,″ state police said.

``All I heard was the boom. I think everybody heard the boom,″ said Sandra Davis, 49, of Camden, S.C., who was sitting six rows back on the right side.

Forty-five people, mostly middle-aged and elderly from North Carolina and South Carolina, were traveling to Branson, Mo., a country music hot spot 75 miles north.

The Scenic Tours bus left South Carolina on Tuesday and picked up passengers in Charlotte, N.C., and Gastonia, N.C. The passengers spent the night in West Memphis, and the bus was due in Branson Wednesday afternoon.

State police identified the bus driver as George Ray Bingham, 53, of Kings Mountain, N.C., where the bus company was based. Bingham and his wife Pat owned the company. She was the tour director and was hospitalized after being thrown out a window in the crash.

Forty-two people were taken to area hospitals. Twenty-seven were treated and released. The most serious injury was a broken pelvis.

The driver of the tractor-trailer truck was unhurt.

Update hourly