3 die after bus transporting coal mine workers plows into stopped traffic near Gillette

2014-05-14T18:54:00Z 2014-05-15T09:24:04Z 3 die after bus transporting coal mine workers plows into stopped traffic near GilletteBy LAURA HANCOCK Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette

CASPER, Wyo. — Authorities spent Wednesday notifying families of the deaths of three people killed in an eight-vehicle crash on Highway 59, 10 miles south of Gillette.

The Wyoming Highway Patrol will release their names after everyone has been notified, Maj. Perry Jones said.

The three people were killed after a Powder River Transportation bus hit a line of vehicles stopped at a construction zone about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, near mile marker 99.

Highway 59 spans from Douglas to the Montana border and is dotted with Powder River Basin coal mines, which hire busing companies to transport workers to and from the mines.

The mine involved in the morning crash was transporting workers after a 7 a.m. shift change, Zilka said. He didn’t know which particular mine the workers were coming from. Most of the area’s mines operate 24-hours a day.

One lane of the highway was open in the construction zone. Traffic was stopped on both sides and a pilot car led caravans of northbound and southbound traffic through the zone separately, Wyoming Highway Patrol Lt. Will Zilka said.

“The northbound traffic was waiting for their turn when the bus came on them and collided with them,” Zilka said.

The bus was traveling at a high rate of speed, Jones said.

There were about two dozen people inside the bus. None were injured, Zilka said.

At least three people from other stopped vehicles were transported to Campbell County Memorial Hospital. A hospital spokeswoman said she could not share their conditions unless she had the patients’ names, which were not released by authorities.

Zilka described a scene in which two large pickups were piled on top of each other.

“The bus was partially on top of one of the vehicles,” he said.

Three of the fatalities came from two of the vehicles, he said.

The highway was closed until noon Wednesday.

Sean Hughes, associate director of corporate affairs for Powder River Transportation, emailed a statement that said safety is the company’s top priority.

“Powder River Transportation is cooperating fully with local officials,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with all who are involved.”

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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