BLUFFTON, OHIO -- At least six Ohioans are dead after a charter bus carrying the Bluffton University baseball team fell off an off-ramp and onto Interstate 75 in Atlanta. Police spokesman Joe Cobb says the driver apparently mistook the exit lane for part of the carpool lane and continued over the side of the overpass. The bus tumbled over a fence and guard rail, and landed on its left side.
The National Transportation Safety Board has already begun its investigation. A police spokesman describes the bus as being "completely annihilated." Sports equipment was scattered along the interstate.
Shortly after 11:00am, the president of Bluffton University spoke to reporters. In part, here is the statement from James Harder:
"Today is a profoundly tragic and sad day in the life of Bluffton University. Early this morning, a bus carrying 33 Bluffton University baseball team members and coaches, and I believe two employees of the bus company had an accident, a tragic accident in Atlanta, as has been reported all morning in the media. They were on their way to participate in their annual spring training and spring tournament. They had a game scheduled for Saturday morning, their first game of the season, in Sarasota, Florida."
"I have been in touch. People from my staff have been in touch with people in Atlanta, and we understand that at this hour, the Atlanta Police are still working the accident. There are no official details regarding names of individuals who might have been involved in this accident that I can release to you, because we still have not received them officially from the Atlanta officials."
"A few minutes ago, in this auditorium, a gathering together of the Bluffton community occurred. Every seat was filled, as our students, faculty and staff, friends, community members, alumni, area pastors, area counselors and well-wishers gathered together to reflect on what has happened. It's difficult, because we still lack full information, but it is clear that this is a profound and tragic day in the life of Bluffton University."
"We have canceled classes for the day. Our students were scheduled to go on spring break beginning tomorrow. We are providing counseling services at several locations around campus for students who are interested in speaking with counselors, professors, or pastors about this tragedy. And probably as painful as anything about the uncertainty itself that hangs over this incident."
"I have received and the institution has received many offers of support from around the country -- from individuals, from area colleges, from regional colleges and universities, from colleges and universities in and around the Atlanta area, and as far as Florida, all offering assistance that is useful to us. We will accept that assistance when we need it, and we are very grateful for those offers of support."
"I have been on the telephone with Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, who has offered his assistance, and I know he has been in communication with the Governor of Georgia this morning for the same purpose."
"Again, Bluffton University is profoundly grateful for the outpouring of support from the community. We only wish to reflect on our sadness for the tragedies that have so deeply impacted the lives of so many people. Friends, relatives, of course the people involved directly in the accident, we can only begin to imagine how over time this will play out. We will hang together, and support each other, and try to work through this very, very difficult situation."
"Right now, my Athletic Director Talavinia and Bluffton officials are on their way to Atlanta. They should be arriving there shortly in the early afternoon. They're assisting in making local arrangements in Atlanta so that family and students can be supported and have all of their local needs met as best as is possible. And again, we're grateful for the offers of support we are receiving from others in Atlanta."
"All of us on this campus will have the opportunity in the days and weeks ahead to offer our own support in many, many different ways, and I'm sure that support is forthcoming."
Transcribed by AEB