UPDATE | Driver in Masters week tour bus crash granted bond

Published: Apr. 5, 2018 at 9:03 AM EDT
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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The man who was driving a tour bus to Augusta National Golf Club during Masters Week has been granted bond.

Steven Hoppenbrouwer is able to bond out with $50,000. He is facing 18 counts of serious injury by vehicle, two counts of driving under the influence and one count of failure to maintain lane.

None of the 18 passengers aboard the bus were local. Most were traveling from their homes in Atlanta, and some hailed from the Washington, D.C. area.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- According to court records, the driver behind the wheel of a tour bus that crashed on I-20 during Masters Week has been indicted on multiple charges.

Court records show Steven Hoppenbrouwer has been indicted on 18 counts of serious injury by vehicle, two counts of driving under the influence and one count of failure to maintain lane.

Monday, June 25, 2018

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. WRDW/WAGT) -- Tonight News 12 has learned that Steven Hoppenbrouwer was declared by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to be an "imminent hazard to public safety."

Mr. Hoppenbrouwer can no longer operate any commercial motor vehicle.

On April 5th, more than 15 people were hospitalized after Mr. Hoppenbrouwer overcorrected a limo bus on I-20.

The tour bus was headed to the Augusta National Golf Tournament.

Mr. Hoppenbrouwer stated to authorities that he did not know what happened. A blood test was given at the scene of the accident which determined he was driving under the influence of prescription drugs. He was charged with DUI, Failure to Maintain Lane and not wearing a seatbelt.

The tour bus driver was arrested but bonded out of jail on April 6th.

The FMCSA's report states:

 June 25, 2018

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has declared Georgia-licensed commercial driver Steven F. Hoppenbrouwer to be an imminent hazard to public safety and has ordered him not to operate any commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in interstate commerce.  Hoppenbrouwer was served the federal order on June 19, 2018.

On April 5, 2018, Hoppenbrouwer, a commercial driver’s license (CDL) holder, was operating a Freightliner Minibus along Interstate 20 transporting passengers to the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, when the vehicle traveled onto the unpaved roadway shoulder causing the minibus to rotate counterclockwise.  Continuing to spin, the vehicle returned into the travel lanes where it overturned on its side, sliding across the roadway before striking a cable barrier in the median.  Sixteen of the 18 passengers were transported to area hospitals. 

The Georgia Department of Public Safety cited Hoppenbrouwer for failure to maintain the roadway travel lane – along with seven felony citations for serious injury by vehicle.  He was also cited for driving under the influence after a post-crash controlled substance test resulted positive.

An investigation by FMCSA found that Hoppenbrouwer had previously failed to complete a federally required evaluation and treatment program led by a substance abuse professional after testing positive for a controlled substance in 2015 – however, he falsely certified he had done so on a FMCSA Medical Examination Report Form he signed on March 5, 2018.

FMCSA investigators further discovered that even though Hoppenbrouwer possessed a CDL endorsement for a limited and specified type of commercial vehicle, on at least one occasion he illegally operated a motorcoach for which he was not qualified to drive. 

FMCSA’s imminent hazard out-of-service order states that Hoppenbrouwer’s continued operation of a commercial motor vehicle “… substantially increases the likelihood of serious injury or death to you and the motoring public if not discontinued immediately.”

Failure to comply with the provisions of a federal imminent hazard out-of-service order may result in action by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for equitable relief and punitive damages.  Civil penalties of up to $1,811 may be assessed for each violation of operating a commercial motor vehicle in violation of the order.  Knowing and/or willful violation of the order may also result in criminal penalties.

Hoppenbrouwer also may be subject to a civil penalty enforcement proceeding brought by FMCSA for his violation of the Agency’s safety regulations.

Monday, April 9, 2018

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- News 12 is learning what exactly happened when a tour bus headed to Augusta National overturned last week.

According to an incident report, a driver behind the bus told law enforcement how the crash occurred. Driver Steven Hoppenbrouwer says he did not know what happened.

Hoppenbrouwer was given a blood test on the scene to determine he was under the influence of prescription drugs.

None of the 18 passengers aboard the bus were local. Most were traveling from their homes in Atlanta, and some hailed from the Washington, D.C. area.

Friday, April 6, 2018

News 12 at 5:30 / News News 12 @ 6 O'clock / NBC 26 at 7

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The driver of the tour bus that crashed on I-20 is now out of jail on bond. News 12 cameras were the only ones rolling when Steven Hoppenbrouwer walked out of the Columbia County detention center this afternoon.

When asked if there was anything Hoppenbrouwer wanted to say to the victims of the crash, his attorney spoke up.

"He doesn't have anything to say right now but we do wish everybody has a speedy recovery, and we'll have our day in court. Thank you," said the lawyer.

Hoppenbrouwer's bond was set at just over 20-thousand-dollars.

We're learning Hoppenbrouwer faces seven additional charges for serious injury by vehicle in addition to a DUI charge and failure to maintain lane.

Troopers say Hoppenbrouwer veered right overcorrected and the bus ended up on its side in the median. The accident shut down parts of both sides of the interstate for almost four hours. All of this happened near mile marker 186 between Grovetown and Harlem.

Five passengers are still being treated after ambulances brought them here yesterday morning.

One patient is in critical condition but that's the only one from the crash, one more patient is in serious condition, and three are in fair at AUMC.

Doctors Hospital is still treating three patients; one is in serious, one is in fair and one is in good condition.

Gold Cross is the company that provided the ambulances and transported at least 14 patients to the two hospitals.

Gold Cross Chief of Operations Steve Vincent says they sent seven ambulances and three supervisor vehicles.

"Our Columbia County units responded, our McDuffie County units responded some of our units from other divisions responded as well."

Vincent says Gold Cross treats calls like this one as MCI's, mass casualties.

He says when they got on scene the first thing they have to do is triage everybody which means they look at around to see who needs the most help. That is what a Gold Cross supervisor did Thursday morning.

"One of our supervisors, one of our majors, she was one of the first on scene so she took command of the scene and just kind of picked out which patients were the most critical and requested more resources and dictated which patients needed to go to the hospital first."

Gold cross says there were several passengers trapped inside the bus during the accident.

He says they're all making the best out of the situation.

“Their spirits are up. Not the way they envisioned going to Augusta national I think most of them, what they're telling us, is they're thankful to be alive. This could've been much, much worse.”

We're unsure if Hoppenbrouwer was a full time employee; we reached out to Jet Executive Limo today they said they have no comment.

Friday, April 6, 2018

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Steven Hoppenbrouwer has bonded out of jail today.

Hoppenbrouwer is facing multiple charges including failure to maintain lane, driving under influence of alcohol/less safe and seven counts of serious injury by vehicle.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Five patients remain at Augusta University Medical Center Friday morning. One is in critical condition, one serious and three are in fair condition.

Doctors Hospital is still treating three patients from the crash. One of those patients is still in serious condition, while the other two are in fair and good condition.

The driver of the tour bus, 61-year-old Steven Hoppenbrouwer, is being held on a bond of $20,400.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

News 12 at 11

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- At AU Medical Center, 10 people were hospitalized. Five remain in serious condition and five were treated and released.

Nine people were hospitalized at Doctor's Hospital. One remains in critical condition, one in serious and one in fair condition. The others were treated and released.

Tonight, we’re hearing from someone who witnessed the accident and even a passenger on board who's just happy he's alive.

“The top roof wouldn’t come off because we're on our side so the emergency roof we're trying to get it open its starting to smoke the bus is filling up with smoke.”

Kip Plowman and 18 others were on their way from Atlanta to the first day of the tournament, but then…

“We curved off the side of the road. We went around, we spun around one and a half times because the bus was facing backward, then it flipped on its side.”

But even early on in the trip, there were signs something was off. The driver first veered off the road just outside Atlanta.

“Said it was a tire, some kind of metal in the road; we didn’t really believe him, it seemed like we were (wobbling) a good bit as we went.”

But it later turned worse, a crash with passengers trapped in the wreckage.

“Windows, which are now the roof, and we open those, and we get those kicked out.”

“I climbed out the top part of the bus and jumped down. Then pulled the emergency top from the outside and then people start climbing through.”

While they were struggling, Nick Carnes was praying.

“My first reaction was to ask people to pray because I knew at that moment there were no rescue people, there were no emergency vehicles.”

Nick says people pulled over to help to do the best they could to pull people out. It was a scene no one expected on the way to the Masters.

A crash that could have been much worse.

“So it’s not the way we planned it but uh, everybody is alive and you know, we're thankful for that.”

The driver, Steven Hoppenbrouwer, is charged with DUI. He remains in jail and is still being processed. Right now, we're working to confirm what he had in his system at the time of the accident. We'll keep you updated.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

News 12 @ 6 O'clock / NBC 26 at 7

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Doctors Hospital is still caring for three patients after a bus accident this morning. News 12 spoke with a patient at AUMC earlier who says he feels blessed just to be alive.

Flashing lights and emergency rooms were not the plans Shreyas Kataria had for today.

"I didn't get to see Tiger, I didn't get to see the course, nothing."

He was headed for a nice day at the tournament when the bus he was on took a turn.

"I had my head banged into the window in front of me and then I was basically just lying flat on the other side because the van flipped over,” said Shreyas Kataria.

He was on the bus with 17 other passengers and the driver when the bus rolled. Kataria and nine other people on the bus were taken to AUMC to be treated.

"People are in terrible, terrible shape, it's not just the four or five. Over here there are people who have a broken back, broken ribs multiple compound fractures."

The rest were taken to Doctors Hospital.

"We have a really elderly gentleman at Doctors Hospital which is the other center where people were taken who has a completely, entirely open arm like you can see the bone you can see the tissue and he was dragged along the bottom as the bus flipped."

Kataria may be leaving Augusta without seeing the course but he says he's just thankful to be alive.

"Considering what happened to my co-travelers and co-passengers I am incredibly blessed to walk away from something like this with nothing more than a cut, that's it."

The last we heard was five are still in serious condition and two are in fair but we're staying in close contact with both hospitals so we will continue to update you on the patients’ conditions as we get more information.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

2:30 p.m.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Nine of the victims of Thursday's tour bus crash are being treated at Doctors Hospital.

According to an official at Doctors Hospital, one patient is in critical condition, one is in fair condition and one is serious. All other patients have been treated and released.

1:52 p.m.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Victims involved in the tour bus crash Thursday morning say they noticed the bus swerving before they went off the road.

The driver of the bus has been charged with DUI, among other charges.

It appears the driver drove off the road to the right, before overcorrecting and flipping into the median.

At least 17 of the 18 passengers were treated for injuries at area hospitals.

12:05 p.m.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The driver of the bus, 61-year-old Steven F. Hoppenbrouwer, has also been charged with not wearing a seatbelt.

11:38 a.m.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The tour bus that crashed carrying 18 people Thursday morning has now been flipped back over.

16 people are in area hospitals being treated for injuries received from that crash.

Bus driver Steven F. Hoppenbrouwer, has been charged with DUI and Failure to Maintain Lane.


10:53 a.m.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- All westbound lanes of traffic are now moving.

16 people are in area hospitals after a tour bus crashed on the way to Augusta National Golf Club. 18 people were onboard the bus.

The driver, 61-year-old Steven F. Hoppenbrouwer, has been charged with DUI and Failure to Maintain Lane.

Check back for the latest updates.

10:32 a.m.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- According to officials with the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, the driver of the bus, 61-year-old Steven F. Hoppenbrouwer, has been charged with DUI and Failure to Maintain Lane.

The bus is owned by Jet Executive Limousine, Inc. The bus was driving patrons to Augusta National to attend the tournament when Hoppenbrouwer ran off the right side of the road and tried to overcorrect.

The bus overturned in the median. 18 people were onboard the bus at the time of the crash.

#BREAKING: Driver of tour bus carrying 18 passengers to the Masters charged with DUI. More at News 12 NBC 26

Posted by Brooke Zauner TV on Thursday, April 5, 2018

10:28 a.m.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Doctors Hospital has also confirmed they are treating nine additional patients involved in the crash.

10:20 a.m.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Officials with Augusta University Medical Center has confirmed they have received seven patients from the crash so far.

We're told five of those seven have serious injuries, and two are in fair condition.

All seven people being treated at AUMC are adults.

Tour bus overturns on I-20 in Columbia County

Posted by News 12 NBC 26 on Thursday, April 5, 2018

Thursday, April 5, 2018

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga (WRDW/WAGT) -- Lanes on I-20 eastbound and westbound are blocked after a tour bus has overturned on I-20.

The bus was carrying with 19 passengers when it flipped on I-20 eastbound near mile marker 185. That's between the Appling-Harlem and Grovetown exits.

At least one lane of traffic is blocked both directions.

News 12 has been told at least 5 people have already been transported to the hospital.

Details are limited. We have a crew headed to the scene.