A team bus carrying the Elizabethton Twins north from extended spring training was involved in a fatal crash Tuesday morning, the Florida Times-Union and St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.
The driver of a black Honda was traveling south in a northbound lane of Interstate 295 in Jacksonville, Fla. around 4:25 a.m. when it collided head-on with the Twins' bus.
The driver of the car was declared dead at the scene, Twins director of baseball communications Dustin Morse said in a statement.
Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Dylan Bryan said no one on the bus was injured. A second bus arrived around 7 a.m., allowing the team to continue to Elizabethton, where it is expected to arrive around 4 p.m. Tuesday. The northbound lanes of the interstate were not reopened to traffic until just before 9 a.m.
Twins president Dave St. Peter expressed relief on Twitter that no one on the bus was injured and offered condolences for the deceased driver.
About 35 players and staff were on the bus, Elizabethton general manager Mike Mains said. Longtime manager Ray Smith and coach Jeff Reed were not aboard because they live in Elizabethton and drove north in their own vehicles.
Tanner Vavra, Minnesota's 30th-round pick in this year's Draft and the son of Twins hitting coach Joe Vavra, was on the bus.
"He called us at 3:30 in the morning, and you never want to get that middle-of-the-night call, but he said he was fine and everyone on the bus was fine," Joe Vavra told MLB.com. "They had just switched drivers up around Jacksonville, so they were about 15 miles into it with the new driver and they were passing a semi and a car came across the wrong lane at the top of a hill and they had nowhere to go with the semi next to them. So the driver braked and told them to brace themselves. So Tanner said they braced themselves and it felt like hitting a deer. The car went right under the corner at the driver's side."
The Elizabethton Twins have been Minnesota's Rookie-level Appalachian League affiliate since 1974. The club was traveling from Fort Myers, Fla., where the Twins have their Spring Training facilities, to Elizabethton, Tenn., in preparation for the start of the Appy League season.
"This is a trip, from Fort Myers to Elizabethton, that we have been taking for a long time. We have been driving at night for several years," Mains said.
When the team arrives, Mains said, "We'll get them settled in a hotel and get them squared away in the clubhouse. We should be on schedule with all that.
"This happened so suddenly. We'll probably sit down and talk. I'm just glad that everyone on the bus is OK," he added.
The E-Twins, who were league champions last season and have won five titles in 10 years, face Bristol in their home opener Thursday evening.
This is the second time in the past month a bus carrying Twins Minor Leaguers has been involved in a crash. Triple-A Rochester's bus collided with a vehicle in the predawn hours of May 22 on the way back from Lehigh Valley, Pa., though no one was injured in the accident.