Two Massachusetts men were roughhousing when they fell out of the bathroom window of a bus that was travelling at 60 mph on a return trip from New Hampshire, investigators said Monday. One was killed and the other was injured.
An autopsy conducted Monday on Thomas Johnson of Gardner shows the 31-year-old died of impact trauma Saturday night. A ruling on whether his death was accidental won't be made until the conclusion of the investigation. Seth Davis, 34, of Winchendon, has been hospitalized in stable condition, Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said.
Authorities say an initial investigation did not indicate that the men were fighting before tumbling out of the window, which was roughly 4 feet by 2 1/2 feet, hinged at the top and opened at the bottom, Early said.
About 55 people were on the bus returning from a tour of New Hampshire brew pubs over the weekend, and Johnson and Davis had been "goofing around," fellow passenger Sherry Clement said.
The passengers were initially in disbelief when they discovered two of their friends had fallen from the bathroom window, Clement said.
"There were a few moments of shock," she said.
She said she heard a thump, then what someone described as a swishing sound, and a man near the back of the bus went to investigate.
Clement said she and others got so cold they thought the air conditioning was on, until they realized the bathroom window was open. Someone called 911.
"I went to the front of the bus to tell the driver, and he said `There's no way people fell out of the bus,'" she said. "I said `Dude, I'm telling you, two people are missing."
The driver pulled off the highway.
A state police trooper found Johnson and Davis lying in the breakdown lane of Route 2 in Shirley with extensive injuries. The other passengers were interviewed by police until the early hours of the morning Sunday.
There was no fight, Clement said. "They were just goofing around. They were happy. They were joking."
The men tumbled out of the bus nearly 12 hours after the beer-drinking trip began, investigators said.
"The initial investigation indicates that the two men had been roughhousing in the back of the chartered bus, near and in the restroom" before they fell out, Early said.
"The driver, unaware that the men had fallen out of the bus, continued for several miles before pulling off the highway," Early said.
Most of the passengers on the bus were friends from the Gardner Ale House, where Clement is a manager and Johnson was a regular customer.
"He was always happy," Clement said. "He was always a ray of sunshine. We'll miss him."
The Colonial Tours bus was heading back to Gardner in central Massachusetts. State police impounded the bus for the investigation. The company did not respond to several messages for comment.
One of the brew pubs the group visited was the Redhook Ale Brewery in Portsmouth, N.H. A Redhook spokesman said in a statement that the brewery was "saddened by the tragic event," but would not comment further pending the results of the investigation.
Police believe alcohol was a factor.
Johnson was a Michigan native who moved to Massachusetts eight or nine years ago, said his stepfather, Martin Roza of Lake Elsinore, Calif. He lived with his girlfriend and ran his own tiling business in the small working class city about 60 miles west of Boston.
"He was the most likeable and amicable person in the family," Roza said, adding that Johnson kept the scattered family in touch, with his mother, Katherine, in California, fraternal twin brother in Connecticut, and sister and father in Michigan. "He was a good looking guy, a lady killer, we always said he should come out here and make it in Hollywood."
The Rozas are flying to Massachusetts on Tuesday and are planning a memorial service later in the week.
"His mother just wants to hold his hand one last time," Martin Roza said.
Associated Press writer Rodrique Ngowi contributed to this story.