LAREDO, Texas – A charter bus headed to a casino crashed in far South Texas on Saturday, killing eight people and injuring more than 40 in a one-vehicle rollover, officials said.
Webb County officials told CBS affiliate KENS in San Antonio the accident happened on U.S. Highway 83 north of Laredo at around 1 p.m. Saturday.
Volunteer Fire Department Chief Ricardo Rangel says the bus, identified as belonging to OGA Charters, originated in the Rio Grande Valley and was headed to a casino in Eagle Pass, about 125 miles northwest of Laredo.
The fire department described it as a rollover involving just one vehicle. The 44 passengers who were injured were taken to hospitals in Laredo and Dimmit County, KENS reported.
State transportation officials said the highway could remain closed for hours.
The bus company is based in San Juan in Hidalgo County. There was no answer at the bus company and no one immediately responded to a message left there.
The crash is one of the deadliest bus accidents in Texas in the last several years, including one in January 2015 when two prison guards and eight inmates were killed after their prison bus struck a piece of displaced highway guardrail west of Odessa. The bus fell about 20 feet before striking a Union Pacific freight train that happened to be passing beneath the highway.
Seventeen passengers died in 2008 near Sherman when their bus plunged over a highway bridge on their way to a religious retreat in Missouri. The National Transportation Safety Board concluded the crash was caused when a retreaded tire on the right front axle was punctured by an unknown object.
Although the retread itself wasn’t the cause, the panel noted that the tire was affixed to the front axle illegally, the bus company didn’t have the authority to leave Texas after failing an inspection three months earlier, and the company that inspected the bus wasn’t equipped to judge whether it was roadworthy.
The owner of the Houston bus company was charged with making false statements but avoided prison in 2014 after a federal judge sentenced him to three years of probation in a plea agreement.