A Gwinnett County man has been arrested for driving under the influence of an unspecified type of drugs after flipping a charter bus on Interstate 20 Thursday morning while taking passengers to the Masters Tournament in Augusta.
According to the Georgia State Patrol, the wreck happened around 8:45 a.m. on Interstate 20 at mile-marker 186 in Columbia County. Investigators said the bus driver, Steven Hoppenbrouwer, 61, ran off the side of the road and overcorrected back to the left. The bus then overturned on the median.
Authorities said 18 passengers were on the bus, and several were taken to a local hospital to be treated for non-life threatening injuries.
"You have a group of guys really hoping for a good time at the Augusta National and now this tragedy fell upon them, now they're in the hospital," Georgia State Patrol Sgt. Christopher Wright said.
Nine people are being treated at Doctors Hospital in Augusta. One of those patients is in critical condition, one is in serious condition and one is in fair condition, according to WJBF, the ABC affiliate in Augusta/Aiken. The remaining six patients are in good condition.
Augusta University Medical Center told the network that they have received seven patients from the accident. Chief Medical Officer Phillip Coule said that five of those patients are in serious condition. The other two are fair. He says some patients may require operations and added that none of the injuries appear to be life threatening.
“When the call came in today, we immediately began to assume the worst,” Coule told WJBF. “You always want to be prepared for the worst, hope for the best. And in this situation we did that in that we had a large number of staff that we marshaled from other areas.
"We brought in additional trauma surgeons. Some of our trauma nurses from ICU actually came down to the emergency department to augment the staff.”
It is not known at this time who was on the bus — or where they were from.
Meanwhile, Hoppenbrouwer was charged with DUI-drugs and failure to maintain lane.
"It was bad to begin with, but it could have been a lot worse, we could be talking about multiple fatalities in this incident," Wright said.
Georgia State Patrol officials have so far only said he is from Gwinnett County. WhitePages.com showed there were two places listed as Hoppenbrouwer’s residence as of March. One is a home in Buford and the other is an apartment in Atlanta.
The bus he was driving is owned by Jet Executive Limousine, Inc., according to authorities. The company is based out of Suwanee, according to its website. It says they serve Gwinnett, including Lawrenceville, Buford, Suwanee and Duluth, as well as other parts of metro-Atlanta area.
A person who answered the phone at the business declined to comment, saying the company was “in the dark” about the details of what happened.
The Georgia State Patrol said passengers in the bus told troopers at the scene that Hoppenbrouwer had caused the vehicle to swerve twice during the trip before the accident eventually happened.
"He had initially told them, the first time that he had, that there was some kind of obstruction in the lane he was trying to get around, I think he may have said it was a tire, and they noticed again that, about 15 minutes prior to this ultimate crash, that he did the same thing," Wright said.
The crash caused I-20 to shut down in both directions, but the interstate later reopened.
The bus was removed from the scene around noon Thursday.
FOX 5 Atlanta contributed to this report.