COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. - A Gwinnett County man has been arrested for driving under the influence after flipping a charter bus on Interstate 20 Thursday morning while transporting passengers to The Masters Tournament in Augusta.
According to the Georgia State Patrol, the wreck happened around 8:45 a.m. on I-20 at mile-marker 186 in Columbia County. Investigators said the bus driver, Steven Hoppenbrouwer, ran off the side of the road, overcorrected back to the left, then the bus overturned on the median.
Authorities said 18 passengers were on the bus, and several were taken to the hospital. A hospital official with Augusta University said they received seven adult patients. Five of them were in serious condition and the other two were listed in fair condition.
"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," said Georgia State Patrol Sgt. Christopher Wright.
When troopers arrived, passengers were crawling out of the bus and a number of them told investigators the driver swerved twice after leaving Atlanta.
"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," said Sgt. Wright.
Hoppenbrouwer, 61, was charged with DUI and failure to maintain lane. The bus he was driving is owned by Executive Limousine, Inc. The company did not want to comment on the incident as of Thursday afternoon.
The GSP said troopers on the scene were told by passengers the bus was headed to the Masters Tournament, which began Thursday morning.
The crash caused I-20 to shut down in both directions for several hours. The bus was removed from the scene around noon Thursday, but traffic remained at a slow crawl.
"It was bad to begin with, but it could have been a lot worse, we could be talking about multiple fatalities in this incident," said Sgt. Wright.
"9 o'clock this morning, I left Woodstock to come to The Masters to see my nephew. Tony Finau is playing on his first Masters," said Kuki Tuupo. "I missed the tee off, but I'll catch up with him somewhere on the backside."