The interstate was closed in both directions as the injured were flown to hospitals and a free-standing emergency room in rural Baldwin County, said Chris Elliott, a Baldwin County commissioner who helped at the county emergency management center following the crash.
"For whatever reason, the charter bus got into the median and ended up going into a ravine", Mack said near the scene of the accident on Interstate 10 between Mobile, Alabama, and Pensacola, Florida.
An official with the bus charter company, First Class Tours of Houston, said the company was working on a statement.
A family member tells KHOU 11 the high schoolers were from Channelview, Texas and on their way back home after a trip to Disney, but Channelview Independent School District has not yet confirmed this information.
News 5 has been told the bus was returning to Houston, Texas from a school trip.
Authorities said the bus left the roadway before crossing a bridge and fell about 35 feet into a ravine.
Rescuers used every piece of equipment on every truck to reach them, Mack said: "This is what we call an all-out". We're told five of the passengers were in serious condition and one in critical condition.
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Seven to eight medevac helicopters were used to take the injured to area hospitals, including University of South Alabama Hospital, AL.com reported.
The sheriff said it wasn't immediately clear what caused the bus to enter the grassy median, which abruptly ends at a steep embankment where the interstate passes over Cowpen Creek, about 25 miles west of Pensacola, Fla., and 30 miles east of Mobile, Ala.
"Everybody is being transferred to a hospital to at least be checked out", he added. Dewayne Benson, 15, was on one of two buses traveling home from Walt Disney World, according to his sister, Sydney Benson.
Multiple agencies from Alabama and Florida responded to the accident scene, Mach said.
The Baldwin County call center is being brought online to field calls regarding the passengers and their locations, according to the Sheriff's Office.
The National Transportation Safety Board also said it was sending a team of six investigators to look into the crash.
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