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Authorities: Tour bus rollover in Fla. kills two

LAKE PLACID – A tour bus carrying senior citizens on a cultural tour rolled over Monday on a rural stretch of road in central Florida, killing two people and injuring more than a dozen others, authorities said.

The bus carrying 30 people, including the driver, had just visited murals in Lake Placid and was headed back to a nearby hotel when it crashed. Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton said the bus swerved to avoid a car that had pulled out in front of it. It rolled at least twice.

“It was a very graphic scene,” Benton said.

Tiffany Bender, spokeswoman for Florida Hospital Heartland Division, said 11 people were taken to Lake Placid hospital. She said 12 others were taken to the group’s hospital in Sebring.

Benton said multiple agencies worked to help the injured and within an hour and a half had everything under control at the scene in Lake Placid, about 30 miles northwest of Lake Okeechobee.

“When I left the scene, every single one of the passengers had been triaged, treated, backboarded and transported,” she said.

The passengers, who ranged in age from 66 to 87, had traveled to the area from around the U.S. to participate in an educational program affiliated with South Florida Community College in Avon Park.

College President Norm Stephens said the school’s director of community education was on the bus and called him around 2:15 p.m. to tell him of the wreck.

“It’s tragic,” he said. “Our hearts go out to the victims and their families. It’s a horrible thing.”

They were part of the “Exploritas” program, formerly known as Elderhostel. Stephens said the seniors were on a tour called “Discover Old Florida,” and that the college had hired the bus.