GARDENS CORNER, S.C. — A bus carrying Navy personnel to a wreath-laying ceremony Friday lost control on a two-lane highway and crashed head-on into a semitrailer truck, killing three sailors.

A second Navy bus veered off U.S. 17 to avoid the wreck about 60 miles southwest of Charleston. Seventy people were taken to hospitals, including 38 who were expected to be checked and released.

The sailors were from the guided missile destroyer William Pinckney, said Susan Piedfort, a spokeswoman for the Charleston Naval Weapons Station. About 100 people were aboard the two buses that crashed, she said.

One bus swerved onto the right shoulder of the highway, then overcorrected and crossed the center line, hitting a semitrailer truck, said Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. Paul Brouthers.

Three sailors on that bus, including the driver, were ejected and killed, Brouthers said, and the truck driver was seriously injured.

A van from a television station was used to take people to the hospital because so many people were hurt.

Two other Navy buses were unaffected, and sailors who arrived safely at Beaufort National Cemetery gathered in a circle after learning of the crash, U.S. Naval Hospital spokeswoman Patricia Binns said.

"There were tears out there," said Binns, who was at the cemetery.

Another ceremony, scheduled to take place on the ship itself, was canceled.

"I can only imagine the mood on the ship is not light right now," said Navy spokesman Paul Taylor. "A ship's crew is like a family, so anytime something like this happens, it's definitely felt."

Names of the dead were not released pending notification of families.

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The USS Pinckney is visiting South Carolina this week and will be commissioned in May in California.

The ship is named for a Navy cook who won the Navy's second-highest honor for saving the life of a shipmate during a Japanese attack on the carrier Enterprise in 1942.

Although injured, Pinckney carried another man up several decks to safety after an ammunition handling room filled with flames. Four others in the compartment died.

Pinckney died in 1975. The sailors were heading to Beaufort for a graveside ceremony with his widow.

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