By Marice Richter
DALLAS (Reuters) - Two people died and 44 others were injured on Thursday on a highway near Dallas when a bus taking passengers to a casino in Oklahoma crashed and rolled over, a Texas Highway Patrol spokesman said.
He said the bus traveled off the shoulder of the highway, hit a barrier, went back across the roadway onto a grassy median and struck a concrete divider. No other vehicle was involved.
"The bus rode up on top of that concrete divider for a short distance and then overturned and rolled on its right-hand side," said the spokesman, Trooper Lonny Haschel.
A doctor who went to the scene of the crash in Irving, Texas, described most of the passengers as older people and senior citizens.
"People were piled on top of each other," said Dr. Paul Pepe, chairman of emergency medicine at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center-Parkland Memorial Hospital.
Many of the passengers were able to talk and walk after the morning crash on State Highway 161, known as the George Bush Tollway, he said. They were taken to hospitals in any case because of their age. The driver was among those injured.
"We had the whole gamut of injuries from minor superficial cuts, bumps, bruises, all the way up to some that had to be flown," Haschel said, adding that many of the injured had been released from area hospitals by Thursday evening.
It was unclear what caused the crash, and the Texas Department of Public Safety and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating, Haschel said. He said it could be months before the inquiry was completed.
NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said it was investigating "safety issues that may have contributed to the crash, such as driver fatigue and the condition of the bus."
The bus belongs to the Cardinal Coach Line, Haschel said. That Dallas-area company could not be reached for comment. The dead were not publicly identified.
(Reporting by Marice Richter and David Bailey; Editing by Corrie MacLaggan, Cynthia Johnston and Todd Eastham)