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Passenger recounts moments leading up to bus crash, others still in the hospital

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) - A victim is recounting the terrifying moments before a shuttle bus, headed to Augusta National, overturned on Interstate 20 sending 18 passengers to the hospital. 

As of 5:30 p.m. on Thursday 8 of the passengers were still being treated for injuries, but are expected to survive. The driver, Steven Hoppenbrouwer, is behind bars facing several charges including DUI-drugs, Failure to Maintain Lane and Seatbelt violation. 

Georgia State Patrol troopers responded to the crash around 8:45 a.m. on Thursday morning. The tour bus was traveling from Atlanta to the Masters Tournament when it flipped over in the median. 

Passengers say the driver had veered off the road twice before the accident. The third time Hoppenbrouwer ran off the road was near mile marker 186 in Columbia County. He overcorrected and the vehicle overturned. 

Kip Plowman, a Partner at Cherry Bekaert Accounting Firm, was one of the 18 passengers on the tour bus coming from Atlanta, Georgia. 

"About a half hour, outside of Atlanta, the driver runs off the road. He said it was a tire or some kind of metal in the road we didn't really believe him," Plowman said. 

According to police the driver over corrected causing the bus to overturn into the median.

"We spun around one and a half times, because the bus was facing backwards." Plowman said. "Then it flipped on its side and it probably skidded for a good 100 yards." 

Commercial vehicle drivers face stiff penalties for driving under the influence. According to the Georgia Department of Motor Vehicles the Blood Alcohol limit for commercial drivers is 0.04 percent. WJBF NewsChannel 6 has learned the driver's Blood Alcohol Level was tested, but those results could take up to 2 months to return. 

Before first responders arrived at the crash, Plowman says passengers tried to get out of the bus, but couldn't push the emergency exit on the roof of the bus open. "I climbed out of the top of the bus and jumped down," he said. "And pulled the emergency top off from the outside." 

15 people were to taken to local hospitals, 3 others went to be checked out later in the day. 

While it's not the ideal way to spend the first day of the tournament, Plowman says he's counting his blessings. 

"Everybody is alive and we are thankful for that," he said. 

Hoppenbrouwer remains in the Columbia County Detention Center. No word on a bond hearing.
Three people are still being treated at Doctors Hospital of Augusta. Five others are being treated at Augusta University Medical Center.

Failure to Maintain Lane and DUI-drugs each carry a sentence of up to 1 year in jail, fines and license suspension. 

According to a spokesperson for the tour bus, Jet Executive Limousine, Inc.,  they will not be making comments about the crash, but they say as far as getting passengers back to Atlanta "it's being taken care of." 

Count on WJBF NewsChannel 6 to bring you the latest on this developing story. 


    


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