Passenger recalls ‘horror’ of bus accident near Hohenfels
November 8, 2006
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — One moment Pvt. Nathan Jones was napping on the bus taking him on the last leg of a long journey to his new duty station in Vilseck. The next he was clinging to his seat in terror as the bus veered off the road and flipped onto its roof.
One person died and 11 people were injured when the 55-seat bus, carrying 14 soldiers and family members from Frankfurt International Airport to new duty stations in Bavaria, crashed near Hohenfels’ Gate 5 on Monday.
“I remember jerking my head up when I heard people gasping and ‘eeking’ in horror. I looked up and the driver was … unconscious over there on the wheel,” recalled Jones, one of only three uninjured passengers.
The 19-year-old Colorado Springs native, on his way to a job with the American Forces Network Bavaria at Vilseck, said that after the driver lost consciousness, the bus traveled up an embankment beside the road, toppled over and rolled onto its roof.
“I didn’t have time to be scared, but I was very confused and remember trying to grab hold of the [seat] for support even though I knew it wasn’t really going to help. I fell out of the [seat] and I got pretty banged up,” he said.
A noncommissioned officer on the bus knocked out a window and escorted people to safety. Passers-by also stopped to help while passengers worked to free pets trapped in the luggage compartment before emergency services arrived, Jones said.
The driver appeared to have died from a heart attack, according to a German doctor who arrived later. Two minutes before the accident, he’d taken over the wheel from his wife, who was his co-driver, Jones said.
There were a lot of children on the bus, Jones added.
U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels public affairs officer Gerry Arbios said none of the injuries was life-threatening, and all but one of the injured were released from the hospital by Tuesday.
U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels fire chief Guenter Stoeckl said emergency workers who attended the accident performed CPR on the bus driver but stopped after the doctor pronounced him dead.
Road conditions were perfect at the time of the accident, Stoeckl said. “It was pretty cold but not icy or rainy,” he said. “There was a clear road with high visibility.”
Emergency personnel from the Army post and surrounding German communities treated multiple injuries, ranging from arm injuries to bleeding, Stoeckl said, adding that he had “never seen anything with so many injuries at one time.”
Joint Multinational Training Command spokesman Chuck Gordon said he had no information on the unit assignments of the other soldiers in the crash.