Bus Roof Sliced off as It Goes Under New York Bridge

More than 40 people were injured Sunday night when a bus struck a highway overpass on Long Island in New York, police said. The bus was carrying mostly high school students returning from a spring break trip to Europe.

The charter bus was traveling eastbound on the Southern State Parkway in Lakeview when it slammed into the overpass, police said, shearing off the top of the bus.

Commercial vehicles such as the bus involved in the incident are not allowed on New York State parkways because the bridges are so low in certain areas, ABC News reports.

New York State Police Maj. David Candelaria described multiple of the injuries as serious, adding that some of the passengers had to be extricated and transported to five local hospitals.

"This was treated as a mass-casualty incident," Candelaria said at a press conference at the scene, adding that more than 10 ambulance companies from around Nassau County responded to the scene. "I give credit the Nassau County police ambulance bureau's emergency services unit and the Lakeview Volunteer Fire Department. They set up a mass-casualty treatment triage and probably saved lives.

"We're very lucky. This could have been tragic," he added.

The injuries ranged from broken bones and cuts to scrapes, Candelaria said. Two of the injuries were serious, five were moderate and the remainder were minor, police said in a press release.

Forty-four people were on the bus, including the driver, five chaperones and 38 students. The teens, all between ages 16 and 18, were returning from a trip to Europe and heading from John F. Kennedy International Airport to a nearby mall to meet their parents when the accident happened. It was not clear which schools they were affiliated with, and authorities said the trip was not organized by school officials.

"The trip was part of EF Education Tours," Candelaria said.

Traffic in both directions of the parkway was stalled following the incident, as fire and police officials inspected the bus and scene. Passengers were seen covered in blankets as they waited outside.

Police confirmed the driver of the bus owned by Journey Bus Lines from Irvington, New Jersey had a valid driver's license. The driver is reportedly under review. The ongoing investigation is in its preliminary stages.

"I don't think he had any awareness because if you look at the damage, it's a high-impact strike," Candelaria said, adding that the incident remains under investigation.

This is not the first time an oversized vehicle has struck the Eagle Avenue bridge.

With a height of just under 8 feet, the overpass "has one of the lowest clearances of any bridge on any Long Island parkway," the Baldwin Herald reported in 2015. It is struck from beneath by tall vehicles an average of three times per year, according to the news site.

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In December, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a $4.3 million project to install an electronic warning system that detects when oversized vehicles enter parkways. "New York State parkways traditionally have bridges that are lower than the standard legal bridge clearance," said a statement from the governor's office.

"The impact to the overpass was significant," Candelaria said after Sunday's bus crash. "It wasn't just a bump. If you look at the bus from the side, it's got substantial damage."