Eight inmates and two corrections officers died Wednesday when a prison bus skidded off an icy West Texas highway, slid down an embankment and collided with a passing freight train, authorities said.
The overpass on Interstate 20 was slick with ice Wednesday morning when the Texas Department of Criminal Justice bus left the roadway in Penwell, just west of Odessa, according to Ector County Sheriff Mark Donaldson.
An earlier accident on the I-20 overpass may have contributed to the prison bus losing control, Donaldson said.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice confirmed the 10 deaths in a statement, adding that four prisoners and one corrections officer were injured. The bus driver and another corrections officer were among those killed.
A prison system statement identified the dead correctional officers as 53-year-old Christopher Davis and 45-year-old Eligio Garcia. The statement did not say which officer was driving the bus.
According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice following were the prisoners who died, along with their convictions and their residences of record:
- Byron Wilson, 34, of Potter County, sentenced for possession of a controlled substance
- Tyler Townsend, 29, of Tarrant County, sentenced for evading arrest with previous convictions
- Jesus Reyna, 44, of Ector County, sentenced for evading arrest and possession of cocaine
- Kaleb Wise, 22, of Taylor County, sentenced for burglary
- Adolfo Ruiz, 32, of Tarrant County, sentenced for labeling unauthorized recordings
- Michael Stewart, 25, of Tarrant County, sentenced for theft of property and evading arrest
- Angel Vasquez, 31, of Potter County, sentenced for assault on a family member
- Jeremiah Rodriguez, 35, of Ector County, sentenced for theft
Correctional officer Jason Self, 38, and inmates Terry Johnson, 22, and Damien Rodriguez, 22, were hospitalized in critical condition, the prison system said. Inmates Remigio Pineda, 34, and Hector Rivera, 37, were in serious condition.
"It's as bad as you can imagine," Odessa Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief Kavin Tinney told the Odessa American newspaper. "In 32 years it's as bad as anything I've seen."
Tiffany Harston, spokeswoman for Medical Center Hospital in Odessa, said four of the injured are in critical condition and one in serious condition.
"It's with a heavy heart that we mourn the loss of those killed and injured this morning in a tragic accident," said Brad Livingston, executive director of the Department of Criminal Justice. "Their loved ones will be in our thoughts and prayers."
Jason Clark, a spokesman for the Department of Criminal Justice, said the bus was taking the inmates from the Middleton prison in Abilene to the Sanchez prison in El Paso.
The prisoners were handcuffed together in pairs, but there were no leg restraints, said Jason Heaton, agency director for the region. Only the driver's seat had a seatbelt, he said. The school bus-like vehicle also does not have seatbelts on the bench-type seats where the prisoners were seated.
After the accident around 7:30 a.m., the white bus came to rest on its side adjacent to the railroad tracks, crumpled with heavy damage to its front and undercarriage. The top of the bus also was caved inward.
The Union Pacific freight train with four locomotives and 58 cars came to a stop soon after. None of the cars derailed, but two containers at the rear of the train were damaged when the bus struck them, said Mark Davis, a railroad spokesman.
The containers were carrying hundreds of parcels and packages, many of which were strewn along the tracks.
Two Union Pacific employees were not injured.
The train, which was traveling from the Los Angeles area to Marion, Arkansas, remained stopped at the accident site several hours after the accident, Davis said.
"We'll send crews to inspect the train, inspect the track," he said.
The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a team to investigate Wednesday's accident.
State Rep. Tan Parker notified the Texas House of the accident and led a moment of silence.
Texas Governor-elect Greg Abbott issued the following statement on the tragic accident:
"My deepest sympathies go out to all who were impacted by the tragic Texas Department of Criminal Justice bus accident in Ector County today. Cecilia and I are praying for solace for the families of those whose lives were lost and for a full recovery for those who sustained injuries."
Texas Lt. Gov.-Elect Dan Patrick also issued a statement offering condolences to the families of those killed in the wreck.
"I also pray for a speedy recovery of a third correctional staff member and four offenders who were transported with injuries," he said.
In June, an inmate was killed and several other people were injured when a Department of Criminal Justice van collided with a car in Central Texas.
NBC 5's Holley Ford contributed to this report.