First responders used ropes to rappel down the 50-foot ravine in the middle of Interstate 10 to reach them, and then had to cut some of the victims free from the wreckage, said Baldwin County Sheriff Huey Hoss Mack, who confirmed the fatality.
Mark Kramer, public relations officer with the Channelview Independent School District, said the bus was taking Channelview High School band students back to Houston after a band trip to Disney World.
About 45 people were on board, and were brought to 10 hospitals in Alabama and Florida, either by helicopter or ambulance, he said. Of the injured, one was listed in critical condition, five were listed in serious condition and the others had minor injuries, authorities said.
The tour bus, which was transporting a high-school band, crashed off the expressway into a 60ft ravine, injuring between 12 and 20 people, according to a statement from the Sheriff's Office.
"The bus came to rest on one side down in the ravine".
Interstate 10 in Baldwin County was shut down after the incident.
Officials at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, Florida, said the facility received 20 patients from the crash.
A call center was established at 251-972-6807 for family members looking for their relatives who were aboard the bus, authorities said.
The bus was returning to Houston, Texas after a school trip when the incident occurred around 6 a.m., WKRG reported.
Family members said 11 the students were on their way home to Channelview after a spring break trip to Disney.
Our sister site AL.com says I-10 was closed in both directions near the crash site and traffic was being diverted at exit 49 to Highway 59. A special crane will be needed to lift the bus out of the ravine.
KPRC in Houston reports that First Class Tours owns the bus, and safety records indicate the company has had four crashes in the last two years.
Contributing: KHOU-TV, Houston. The Associated Press.
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