A commercial bus driver was killed while hauling more than 50 people from Wendover Monday evening in a crash that also injured passengers.
At about 5:40 p.m., a Le Bus en route to Salt Lake City was going eastbound on Interstate 80 between the Tree of Life statue and Knolls in the left lane. Ahead, a construction vehicle in the left lane slowed before a turn-around area in the center median, according to the Utah Highway Patrol. The bus slammed into the back of the construction vehicle, pushing both vehicles more than 300 feet.
The driver of the bus, Pita Asaita, 53, of Bountiful, was killed. He was wearing a seatbelt at the time. Three passengers on the bus were flown to Salt Lake in critical condition, while another two, including a pregnant woman who began experiencing labor pains, were transported by ground for hospital treatment, said UHP Sgt. Jimmy Banks.
The three occupants of the construction vehicle complained of minor injuries but were not transported, he said.
The construction vehicle was an auger, or essentially a drill attached to a truck, and the crews were installing cable guard rails on the interstate, Banks said. He declined to identify the crew, but said that it was not from the Utah Department of Transportation or the Tooele County Road Department.
Both eastbound lanes were closed while officials responded to the crash scene for nearly two hours. Banks said traffic eventually was allowed to pass on the extreme right shoulder. Traffic at the time was light, however, he noted.
The cause of the crash is under investigation.
“It’s all under investigation so we don’t know exactly what it was,” said Banks. “We’re still in the process of getting interviews of the passengers as well as the passengers in the truck. I can’t say why [the construction crew] slowed. It’s possible they were turning into the median. We’re still conducting the interviews, so we’re not sure yet.”