A bus went off the Richardson Highway near Milepost 280 this morning injuring the driver who was sole occupant of the vehicle.
Local responders were dispatched about 8:45 a.m. this morning for a report that a tour bus had left the Richardson Highway between mileposts 260 and 286.
The initial responding units were unable to locate the bus, and responders began organizing to systematically search for the bus. According to Rural Deltana Volunteer Fire Department Chief Tim Castleberry, initially units responded both south and north from Delta Junction to look for the bus before it was determined its destination was Delta Junction from Fairbanks.
“It took our dispatchers a few minutes to determine that the driver was the sole occupant of the bus, and that the bus was traveling to Delta Junction from Fairbanks, and that the driver remembered passing Shaw Creek,” said Castleberry.
Castleberry went on to explain that it was easy to see why the initial responders didn’t see the bus while traveling north. The driver had reported he had gone off the right side of the roadway, but had gone off the left side traveling south. The bus was not visible from the south.
“When I saw the bus after I turned around, I could barely see it in the woods heading south,” said Castleberry.
The bus appeared to have crossed the road near milepost 280, and after going down a small embankment, it then traveled about 100 yards into the woods.
“Although there are no long drops from the road in that area, we were already looking at other search options to help locate the bus,” said Castleberry. “We were reaching out to the local forestry office to see if they had a helicopter available when we found the bus.”
Dispatchers had contact with the driver, but Castleberry said all the driver could see were trees, but had heard sirens, which helped narrow down the search area. The bus was located about 9:15 this morning, 30 minutes after being dispatched on the call.
The driver of the bus, who has not been identified, was taken to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital by Delta Medical Transport with what were described as non-life-threating-injuries.
Troopers are continuing their investigation into the incident, but initial reports were that the driver may have suffered a medical incident before the accident occurred. There were no skid marks or other indications at the scene that the driver took any actions to avoid going off the road.
Fort Greely Fire Department also responded to the scene and Forestry personnel in the area assisted in attempting to locate the vehicle.