Survivors and good Samaritans speak after fatal Greyhound bus crash in Utah

Posted at 10:37 PM, Jan 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-05 09:21:52-05

EMERY COUNTY, Utah -- After a deadly Greyhound bus crash in Utah on New Year's Eve, the survivors are recounting the moments that bus sailed down into a ravine, and good Samaritans in the right place at the right time are sharing their stories of jumping in to help.

The crash on I-70 in Emery County left a 13-year old girl dead and 13 others in the hospital.

Utah Highway Patrol said they think either a medical issue or fatigue caused the driver to crash.

"We thought we were going to die," said Tammara Acevedo.

She and her husband Edgard Acevedo were riding the Greyhound bus from their home in Connecticut, to Los Angeles. After a driver shift change in Green River, Edgard said other passengers noticed the driver passed out.

"The bus driver was knocked out," Edgard said. "I guess he didn't hear anything that [another passenger] just said, like, 'Hey man, wake up!"

Tammara said she was starting to fall asleep but awoke to the bus shaking when it veered off of I-70 around 11 p.m. and crashed 200 feet off the highway into a ravine.

"I remember screaming, and I remember hearing the woman and her child behind us screaming," she recounted.

That child was 13-year old Summer Pinzon, who had been traveling to California with her mother. The couple said they befriended Summer and her mother on the journey, and that the woman said she was headed to California from Tennessee for a better life with her daughter.

Pinzon died at the scene, and Edgard said the girl's mother later said she knew right away her daughter didn't survive the crash.

Tammara said she climbed out a bus window, pulled Edgard out and helped another passenger escape. With a broken leg, Tammara helped drag Edgard up the hill to the highway to flag down help.

911 calls show those 20 minutes that Tammara, Edgard and another passenger tried to yell for help.

"Help! Help! Please!" Tammara screams, at passing vehicles.

Eventually a truck driver and another car pulled over.

"There's a guy, he's going to help us," she can be heard saying to the dispatcher.

Then a man's voice in the background tells the passengers to relax, and that he'll take care of them.

"Are you comfortable to just sit in my car for a second? How many more people are out there?" asks the man, named Joseph Dorner.

Dorner and his wife Gretchen pulled over after seeing the three passengers waving for help. And for them, it was the right place at the right time. Dorner was a fire fighter for 30 years and is currently a paramedic-- so he knows what to do in crisis situations.

He offered for the three passengers to sit in the car to warm up. He gave them water and tried to calm the group down.

"I was just trying to reassure them that they're going to be okay," Dorner said.

After leaving the passengers with Gretchen, he said he walked up to the crash site. A Utah Highway Patrol trooper pulled up and Dorner said he offered to go with the trooper down to the bus.

"I could hear them making noises, moaning noises and stuff," he said, of the passengers still trapped in the bus. "[I] reassured them, tell them, 'We'll do what we can, there'll be help on the way.'"

Three people had gathered on a small cliff above the front of the bus, and Dorner said he checked on them and made sure their injuries weren't life threatening.

Then, he helped untangle the driver of the bus, who Dorner said was still in the seat but face down.

Emergency responders arrived and took the 13 survivors to the hospital by Life Flight helicopter and ambulance.

Utah Highway Patrol said some passengers and the driver still remained in the hospital in serious to critical condition, but others like the Acevedos have been released.

They have a long road to recovery ahead as they work to heal from their injuries. Tammara said she suffered a compound fracture on her femur, and has stitches on her skull, face, chin and foot. Edgard said he broke his arm, lost a tooth and has a hole in his lip from his tooth puncturing it.

Tammara said her mother is flying out to Salt Lake City as they figure out how to get back home to Connecticut.

The couple said they're just glad to be alive.

"You get another chance at life," Tammara said.

And they have the Dorners to thank for stopping to help them get through those chaotic moments.