ALLENTOWN -- A busload of state prisoners bound for a coastal prison instead took a detour to a Macon hospital after a Department of Corrections bus overturned Thursday morning on Interstate 16 in Twiggs County.
Prison guards armed with shotguns watched as emergency workers loaded all 11 prisoners from the bus into ambulances and a Twiggs County jail van. Four of the prisoners sustained minor injuries, a Georgia Department of Corrections spokeswoman said, but all the inmates, as well as the driver and a security officer on board, were taken to The Medical Center of Central Georgia as a precaution, said Georgia State Patrol Cpl. Lee Weaver.
“None of the injuries were life-threatening,” Weaver said.
The bus overturned at about 10:20 a.m. on I-16 East near the Ga. 112 exit. The driver told Weaver that he swerved into the ditch to avoid a car that suddenly moved into the right-hand lane. The bus swerved back onto the road, then rolled over on its left side in the ditch, Weaver said.
Charles Ramos, a truck driver from Little Rock, Ark., was following the bus in his Freightliner.
“This is what happens when a car cuts a bus off,” Ramos said. “He did a helluva job keeping it up as long as he did. It scared me to death. I was hoping I was not going to get involved.”
Corrections officers from Dodge State Prison in Chester, as well as from a DOC bus also traveling on I-16, arrived at the scene to stand watch as the prisoners were unloaded from the bus, treated and transported.
“Their warden was our leadership on site and made sure we had security coverage before we started moving anyone,” Randy Tillman, DOC facilities division director, said at the wreck. “Nobody was seriously injured. Thank the Lord for that.”
Tillman refused to disclose the security level of the 11 prisoners on the bus. Gwendolyn Hogan, a DOC spokeswoman, said the prisoners had left Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson and were headed to Coastal State Prison in Garden City near Savannah.
Six of the inmates were taken by ambulance to the hospital, said Twiggs Emergency Management Director Sammy Stokes. The remaining five were taken on the jail van.
With approaching traffic in some areas already restricted to one lane due to ongoing construction, the accident backed up cars for miles as authorities worked to clear the scene.
Staff writer Amy Leigh Womack contributed to this report. To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623.