Bus carrying 55 crashes near Walterboro; Driver dead

WALTERBORO (WCIV) -- A coach bus carrying 55 people, including 43 children,{}drove off the road and crashed into{}a several trees{}on Interstate 95 near Walterboro Sunday morning.

Highway Patrol troopers say the driver was killed and two others were taken to the hospital, one in serious condition and the other in stable condition.

The coroner has identified the driver as 63-year-old Michael Esber. He died as a result of injuries to his chest from the crash.

According to Colleton County Fire and Rescue officials, the coach bus was traveling north on I-95{}near mile marker 67 when the bus{}drove off the left side of the road around 4 a.m. Sunday.{}

The bus was carrying{}a large band group from Ohio that was returning home from Disney World.

First responders say the bus was about 50 feet off the roadway, well into the woods, and the driver was trapped inside.

A helicopter was flown in to transport the driver to Medical University Hospital, but rescue crews decided to transport via ambulance to Colleton Hospital.

The driver's health deteriorated significantly during the transport, according to Colleton Fire and Rescue officials.

The Colleton County School District provided three athletic buses to transport the children to Colleton Hospital.{} Officials say the children only{}suffered minor injuries.{}

Colleton Fire and Rescue officials say assistance from Dorchester County EMS and the Colleton County School District was critical to the rescue response effort.

According to Dan Ronan with the American Bus Association, Esber was scheduled to get a relief driver to take over the trip in Columbia and only had about 75 minutes left on the road when he crashed.Ronan said Esber had been on duty for about seven hours before the crash and did not have a record of health or medical issues.Esber also had a good driving record with the Muskingum Coach company and had been with them for two years. Ronan said Esber was well liked and often requested by tour groups.

ABC News 4 will have more on this story as it develops.