It's a hug Christopher Link won't soon forget.
A taxi dropped Link at his Flint, Mich. home Saturday night -- 13 hours after the Greyhound bus he and 50 other passengers were taking to Detroit, careened off Interstate 75 and flipped several times.
“My beautiful wife opened the door and she just gave me the biggest hug. My kids ran up and they said ‘Daddy!’ and they just jumped on me …Those are my little angels,'' he said by phone Sunday.
"I told them they're the reason I am alive today because if it wasn't for them I wouldn't have tried so hard to get out.”
Link managed to get out of the wreckage without physical injuries, but the crash left nearly three dozen passengers hurt early Saturday morning. As of Sunday, at least six of the injured passengers remained hospitalized.
Bus Just Went Black
Link was on the third and final leg of his Greyhound trip from Asheville, N.C. to visit his ailing nephew in Detroit.
“My trip was going pretty good. All the way there was quick rides, and I was happy because I was almost home,” he said.
Link said everything seemed normal as he boarded the bus, and the driver, who was later identified as Dwayne Garrett, 64, of Cincinnati, came on board with two cups of coffee in hand.
“The gentleman got on the bus, and when he got on the bus, he got on the speaker and made an announcement and all that. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary,” said Link, who was sitting four rows from the bathroom in the back right side of the vehicle.
At around 4 a.m. Saturday, the passengers were just about 40 minutes into their 260-mile trip. Some were sleeping, and Link was watching a Michigan State football game on his cellphone when he felt the bus start to swerve.
“The next thing you know, I hear a woman scream and say ‘Wake up! Wake up sir!’ I look up, and I see the bus driver slumped over,” he said.
Link described the bus swerving off the road at about 65 to 70 miles per hour, running through a fence before hitting a tree and overturning two or three times on its side. It happened near mile marker 26, just north of State Route 129.
“The bus just went completely black. You couldn’t see nothing. You just felt the shaking of the bus, the impact and then we started rolling,” said Link. “That's when you heard the crying, the screaming. I heard a guy scream 'Where's my baby? 'Where's my baby?'
Link said all he could think about was his children, too, as he and others jolted forward, flew out of their seats and tossed around on top of one another as the bus rolled into a cornfield.
“That's the only thing I could think of. I probably won't see my kids again,” he said.
'Get Up, Get Up, Get Up!'
It had been seven months since he last saw his wife and four children, as he travels eight months each year for his job with a carnival working concessions, he said.
The bus stopped moving, and Link did, too. He was buried beneath several others who had tumbled on top of him just moments before.
“Everybody was screaming, 'Get up! Get up! Get up!’" said Link.
“I wasn't going to let nothing stop me from seeing my family.”
He climbed out of the pile and said it looked like a scene from a horror movie—people screaming, crying and one woman’s bone stuck out of her arm.
“The way it looked in that bus was horrible. People were trampled on each other. People were bleeding. It was really horrible. The images—that's something I can't forget,” he said.
Link, who was not hurt, said he climbed up on a seat, opened a hatch and bent down on his hands and knees, as women and children stepped on his back and climbed out of the vehicle.
“I think everybody who was on that bus was a hero,” said Link.
Complete strangers worked together to safely remove as many of their seat mates as they could.
“There was an older gentleman. He was lying in the back, and he's right by me. He was wedged under the seat. He said he couldn't move his legs. He couldn't move his arms. He was the last person to get off the bus,” said Link.
Officials did not release the names of the passengers on the bus and an official cause of the crash had not been released. But authorities have said it appeared Garrett may have suffered a medical event that may have made him lose control of the bus. It remained unclear Sunday evening if Garrett had been released from the hospital.
A Greyhound spokesperson confirmed that Garrett was on duty for an hour before the crash occurred. The bus Garrett was driving had passed inspection 14 days before Saturday’s crash.
'Can't Believe I Made It'
Once Link helped remove the passengers from the bus, he said he sat outside the scene of the accident in shock.
“I can't believe I made it. I just started crying. I was happy. I was very happy,” he said.
He and 13 other passengers who did not require medical care were redirected to Detroit on another Greyhound bus late Saturday morning, after they were asked to talk to an insurance adjuster on the scene.
A representative of the Butler County Emergency Management Agency said 34 people were transported
to area hospitals to be treated for injuries, which ranged from severe to moderate. None of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
For Link and several other passengers who were trapped on that overturned Greyhound bus, hopping on another one just hours later was far from ideal.
“On our way to Detroit, we passed the scene of the accident, and I just put my head down. I don't know. I was just really, really petrified,” said Link. “I got a phobia of buses now.”
But that’s not going to be the last time Link has to ride another bus. He’s got to do it all over again Tuesday to get to his next work assignment in Georgia.
The thought of that gives him nightmares.
“Last night I was laying there and I couldn't get to bed until about 2, 3 o'clock. When I finally did get to bed, I had images of ‘Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!’ and I relived the whole bus crash,” he said.
“I woke up and I was in tears,'' he said. "What happened was very scary."