Marine injured in Fort Rucker bus crash dies, driver charged

Published 9:15 pm Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Marine who was injured in a weekend bus crash at Fort Rucker in south Alabama died Monday, the same day a reckless driving charge was filed against the civilian bus driver.

A statement from the Marine Forces Reserve public affairs office in New Orleans said the Marine’s identity is being withheld pending notification of his family. He was one of 23 members of a Marine Reserve anti-terrorism group who were injured when the bus overturned Sunday.

After the death Monday afternoon, four Marines remained hospitalized, one in critical condition.

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A military statement said Army authorities filed the reckless driving charge against the driver, whose name was not released, and additional charges were possible.

Hattiesburg’s WDAM-TV identified two of the soldiers injured in the bus as Mississippians — Trey la Fitte and Daniel Clark, both of Laurel. The station says officials with the Red Cross in Jones County and the Jones County fire coordinator’s office confirmed the injuries.

The station reports La Fitte is in serious condition at an Alabama hospital while Clark suffered minor injuries and was treated and released.

The bus, which ended up on its right side in a curve with military gear and debris littering the ground, was carrying members of E Company, Anti-Terrorism Battalion, 4th Marine Division with reservists based in Tallahassee, Fla., and the Birmingham suburb of Bessemer.

The military said all the injured were from the First and Headquarters platoons based in Bessemer. Lt. Col. Fritz Pfeiffer, a unit spokesman, said the bus was a charter operated by Adventure Bus Charter, which is located in Sumiton, near Birmingham.

Glenda Cummings, an owner of the company, declined comment on the accident but said she did not believe the driver was hurt.

The crash occurred about 9:20 a.m. Sunday at Fort Rucker, an Army aviation training center located in southeast Alabama about 90 miles south of Montgomery. A statement from the base said the bus was carrying Marines who were departing a training area after a weekend exercise at Fort Rucker.

The four most seriously injured Marines were airlifted by an Army medical helicopter.

While the Army said the cause of the crash was under investigation, The Dothan Eagle quoted a state trooper as saying excessive speed was a factor.

“It went into a curve a little fast, the driver lost control and it flipped a couple of times,” state trooper Sgt. Scott Brasher told the paper.

State troopers did not immediately return a call to state headquarters.