The Bus Wreck

Funny thing about car crashes.  They always seem to unfold so slowly, like honest-to-god Hollywood slow-mo, except you can’t really do anything…   At least that’s been my experience.

First of all, Jackie and I are OK.  A little banged up, a little sore, but OK.  I have bruised ribs and a sore lower back.  Jackie has some bruises and stitches in her lower back.  It could’ve been worse.

So there we were, coming back to Punta Cana from a tour of Santo Domingo, a three-and-a-half hour bus ride to the oldest capital in the Americas (a standard historical trip, the likes of which I always seem to prefer, and, if normalcy had prevailed, about which you’d now be reading while viewing the standard site-seeing photos), and all seemed well.  We’d already shared our joke about crazy Dominican drivers and how our driver was just as crazy yet safe, ha-ha-ha.  We’d seen the sites, stopped for the midway home final pee and shopping break, and were settling in for one more hour before the resort.  Jackie and I were seated comfortably in the middle of the bus where I wouldn’t have to witness the insane-o local driving techniques.  On the drive to, we’d seen an identical tour bus on its side in the ditch near a small town, and shared a meaningful yet dismissive glance.  That stuff happens to other people…

From behind we heard the wail of approaching sirens – ambulance or police.  I glance up and thought, I hope that little car coming at us can finish passing that other truck (passing seems like a drunken dare in the DR, and all the roads are two-lane…).  But the little car seemed to panic, couldn’t get out of our lane, and our own bus-driver attempted to swerve to avoid impact.

He was unsuccessful.  We hit the car and then the bus-driver over-compensated in classic don’t-turn-against-the-skid fashion, and then it was off the road and we were sliding on the passenger side.  I think most of us were ready due to the sirens making us all wary.  I yelled at Jackie and braced my shoulder against the seat in front of me.  When we went over, I thought, OK, that wasn’t terrible.  Then I felt another huge impact – must have been a tree – and we caromed around, tipped up on the roof and landed on the driver’s side, sliding to a stop in the road.

I could move, and I thought, I didn’t feel anything go pop.  I saw Jackie laying there beside me.  Her eyes were wide but she was answering me.  She wasn’t obviously bleeding or otherwise badly hurt.  She sat up and I can tell everyone that was the best sight I’ve seen in years.  We got up looked for a way out.

Most of the other people on our tour were upper middle-aged or senior citizens and they were in rough shape.  I didn’t see any spouting blood though, and I have to admit that the next thing I did was reach down and grab our bags, which were right beside me.  Then we started trying to help the other people get up.  Most were moving.  Most were fairly OK.  One man who was sitting in the front was trapped and not moving.  The bus-driver wasn’t moving.  No one was screaming, though.  People were moving and helping each other.

Pretty quickly we had a lot of local helpers.  They pried one of the windows off and helped people exit from the rear.  I helped Jackie get out, and then noticed she was bleeding from her lower back, though not badly.  By the time I made my way towards the front.  Several folks were helping with the unconscious man.  So I crawled out and we all moved back from the bus.  About then was when I noticed my back and ribs were hurting.

Cars were stopped everywhere.  A lot of people were running up to help.  We were about 45 minutes from the nearest city, so no ambulance for some time.  Finally some guys got the bus driver out and loaded him into the backseat of a big pick-up and took off.

All the tourists were kind of checking each other out, looking over our injuries.  With the two obvious exceptions, no one seemed severely hurt. Our guide, Jose, whose hand was mangled pretty badly, got another bus out there in 20 minutes or so and we loaded up.  They took us to the town of Higuey.  It was a long drive.  I was impressed with how relatively calm everyone was.  No one was really losing it except the wife of the man who’d been knocked out (and he was in an ambulance), who kept telling the driver to slow down.  Jose kept it together pretty well.  Jackie and I just kept looking at each other.  I checked her back, saw some pieces of glass stuck in there.  She said it wasn’t hurting  too much.

We made it to this small emergency clinic in Higuey and off-loaded into the lobby.  The word chaotic comes to mind.  But that’s the next part of this ordeal.


11 thoughts on “The Bus Wreck

  1. Very accurate description of events, and well written. Glad you guys made it home safe. We were the younger couple sitting across from you in the “ER” of the clinic.

  2. WOW.. Michael told me about it. Glad you are well..

    I can relate to the “That can’t happen to me”. Thought the same thing when I flipped the tahoe 3 years ago…


  3. I was on that bus with you guys. I’m not sure who you are. We have been having quite a time with my boyfriend’s injured arm. Could you send me an email so that we could talk a little about the crash? We can’t get medical records or a police report even. We were sitting towards the back of the bus and Barry, the boyfriend, had emergency surgery at the hospital that night.

  4. Wait, after reading this more carefully I know who you guys are. Barry was the guy in the ER sharing a cot with Jackie when she passed out. (And I might have been the woman you spoke about who was screaming at the driver on the way to the ER- sitting up front.:-). Glad you are both apparently okay.

  5. All: The woman who’s husband died as a result of this wreck has contacted me through the blog. She would like to confer with everyone else on the bus. If interested, you can comment on here and I will pass along emails. You can also indicate if you don’t want your comment posted on here (I moderate all responses to the blog).

  6. My husband, myself and two friends were in the mid section of the bus. My friend is one of the guys that had his arm messed up pretty bad and he had 2 surgerys and we spent 2 nights in the Clinic. I hope you everyone if feeling fine.

    I would really like to talk to you via email. I was wondering if you had any pictures from the accident that you could send me. I also have been in contact with Melaine.

    Can hardly wait to see you article on Apple Vacation, sure everyone’s opinion will be the same as yours.

    • We were the couple from Piqua sitting directly behind you. How is Bob doing? I have a couple of photos of the bus after the crash. I could send them to you electronically or by snail mail. Just let me know. We have turned over all information, including items lost in the crash, to our attorney. He has not had any success in receiving a response from Metro’s attorneys or insurnace carrier. Have you had any luck?

  7. After seeing the “police report” and having it translated twice…..Folks to the extent that it is not against any of our interest we really need to share information. There are no diagrams in that police report and while I’m sure plenty photos were taken by various on site authorities (and there was that entire newsbroadcast in the waiting room until Amstart shut it down) there is not even a minor description of who did what, etc.
    We need to share every photo we all have in some way and to the extent all of our American Lawyers have been selected, they all need to agree on a dominican lawyer because there’s just too much corruption there. I think time is critical. Please let’s figure out a way to do this. We hired an interpretor to call head of Metro Legal but surprisingly she is always at lunch and won’t call back. Apple and Amstar has told us f-off (I’ve got a stream of silly emails from both. Meanwhile, our medical bills here in the states (before my knee surgery) is into the $20,000 range. We need photos to enable an accident reconstructinist to evenually figure out what happened. Please, lets get everybody we can together on this. I believe that the more time that passess, the more screwed we are.

    Love and prayers to all – Melanie OR

  8. Disclaimer- I am a licensed attorney in Indiana, admited to practice in the federal courts for nothern and southern Indiana and am admitted to the trial bar in the Nothern District of Illinois where I mainly practice consumder bankruptcy law. I am further admitted to practice in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. NOTHING in my previous post should be considered legal advice in any way ahape or form. However, I did personal injury law for a few years and insurance defence law for a couple more and this “police report” is shocking to me. There should be diagrams, photos, etc. Something is wrong here and my point is just that was need to act fast and, to the extent possible, as a single unit. 🙂

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