Charter Bus Crash Prompts Discussion About Widening Highway 17

By: Heather King/Christine Kennedy
By: Heather King/Christine Kennedy

All the Marines from last week's massive bus accident in Jones County have been released from the hospital.

The driver of one bus is currently in fair condition.

The accident is once again focusing on the need to four lane Highway 17 in Jones County.

The county manager says its been talked about for thirty years, and maybe now, something will be done about it.

Frankie Howard says the highway was originally built to withstand 7,000 cars a day, now they see over 11 thousand cars daily.

Construction is set to begin on the "funded" portions of highway 17 Bypass for Jones County in about 5 years.

There are still portions of the highway, that haven't been funded.

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The charter bus driver who was critically injured when his bus went into a ditch in Jones County March 5 is now listed in fair condition. Officials at Pitt County Memorial Hospital said John Tipton's condition has improved from the critical status.

Tipton was driving the last of three charter buses carrying Camp Lejeune Marines Thursday, when it went into a ditch. Troopers say the first two buses in line stopped for a car trying to make a left turn, but Tipton's bus did not.

The Highway Patrol charged Tipton with failure to reduce speed.

Only one marine remains hospitalized following Thursday's crash involving three buses in Jones County.

Camp Lejeune officials say the Marine being treated at their Naval Hospital has been released.

Another is still hospitalized at New Hanover Regional.

The bus driver injured, who's been identified as John Tipton, was in critical condition at last check.

Highway Patrol charged Tipton with failure to reduce speed.

State troopers say the buses were following a line a vehicles when one vehicle stopped to make a left turn.

They say the first two buses stopped, but the third, driven by Tipton, did not.

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witn audio fileListen to the 911 call

JONES COUNTY, NC -- Highway Patrol has now identified and charged the bus driver involved in Thursday mornings crash involving three charter buses full of Marines in Jones County.

Troopers say the driver is John Tipton. No age or hometown is immediately available. Tipton is charged with failure to reduce speed. At last check he was in critical condition.

Just two of the thirteen Marines injured remain in the hospital.

A Camp Lejeune spokesman says both Marines, one being treated at their Naval Hospital and the other at New Hanover Regional, are in stable condition.

Fifty-nine Marines and one sailor were on the three charter buses when they crashed just before 8:00 a.m. The chain reaction accident happened on Highway 17 in Jones County, just north of Maysville.

State troopers say the buses were following a line a vehicles when one vehicle stopped to make a left turn. Troopers say the first two buses stopped, but the third did not.

Highway 17 was closed for more than three hours as rescuers removed the injured and the buses were removed from the highway.

The Marines were on their way to Norfolk to embark aboard the ships of the Bataan Strike Group for the MEU’s final exercise prior to deployment this spring.

The Marine Corps says Marines who were uninjured in the accident continued to Norfolk aboard replacement buses.

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Three charter buses full of Camp Lejeune Marines crashed this morning in Jones County and state troopers say charges are pending against one of the bus drivers.

That driver was airlifted to PCMH in critical condition. Fifty-nine Marines and one sailor were onboard the buses. Thirteen Marines were injured and taken to the Naval Hospital at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville for treatment. None of the injuries were life-threatening.

Scroll down to view image gallery of accident

The Jones County Sheriff's Office says the crash happened on Highway 17 between Pollocksville and Maysville just before 8 a.m. Traffic on Highway 17 from Jacksonville was backed up for miles, but as of 11:10 a.m. all lanes were open again.

The Highway Patrol says the accident involved three buses and two sport utility vehicles. Troopers say several vehicles were stopped for another vehicle attempting to make a left turn off Highway 17. The first two buses stopped, but the third did not and started the chain reaction accident.

The buses are from All Together Tours, which is based in the Halifax County town of Enfield.

Capt. Carpenter with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit at Camp Lejeune says the Marines were headed to Norfolk today ahead of certification exercises scheduled to begin on March 10, in advance of deployment overseas this spring. Carpenter says the Marines would be training with Bataan Strike Group.

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